Have you ever heard of “bad development”? Have you ever heard a developer or commercial center utter the words, “We do not want more of this economic development”? Now you have, because this is exactly what the Broad Ripple Village Association (BRVA) along with a host of partner organizations and citizens are saying; and with good reason.
The case of Kilroy’s trying to open a new bar in the Broad Ripple Village has popped up on the local radar from time to time over the past couple of months. They hope to take the place of the Cardinal Fitness located just to the west of the intersection of Broad Ripple Ave and Guilford in the heart of the Broad Ripple Village. As proposed, the fitness center would be transformed into a bar/night club complete with an outdoor patio area. They have also requested a variance to greatly reduce the amount of required parking spaces that local building codes call for.
Now you may be asking, why is it such a big deal to locate a bar when there are already a host of other bars in the village? And what is the big deal about a bar asking for less parking? It seems logical that bars, purveyors of alcoholic beverages, would advocate less parking with the end result being potentially less drunk drivers leaving their establishment. Additionally, the addition of the coming parking garage, which has received many rounds of heated debate here at Urban Indy, could lessen the impact of such a large bar.
In a remonstration offered by the BRVA (click to open .pdf), a case has been made against allowing Kilroys to setup shop. At it’s heart, the remonstrators site a number of sticking points that range from negative reinforcement of “place”, detriment to adjacent residents & their property values, ignoring previous Broad Ripple Master Planning documents (which recommends a neighborhood shopping center at this location), limiting the amount of liquor licenses in the village as well as the aforementioned parking concerns.
Indeed, the property which is zoned C-4 has a wide range of permissible uses ranging as follows: bars, auto repair, hotel, bowling alley, hair salon, print shop, post office, lawn mower repair, gardening retail, gym, etc. The uses go on and on according to Indianapolis Commercial Zoning Ordinance. If you frequent Broad Ripple, it is obvious that a large number of businesses along the main stretch of Broad Ripple Ave have sought the bar use; and that is at the heart of why the BRVA is fighting this. They would like to see more retail usage and a stop put to the apparent binge of weekend partiers that foul up the neighborhood and generally contribute to the party reputation that Broad Ripple seems to attract. They cite that there are a number of other cultural institutions to visit in the village and that these uses should continue to be the focus of new development. The remonstration also cites the granting of parking variances over the years and how it has demonstrated negative impacts to the neighborhood in the form of traffic promotive commercial uses such as restaurants and nightclubs; uses which draw in tourists from outside of the neighborhood. Will the parking garage address these concerns? That remains to be seen, but current patterns have created an environment where large amounts of traffic are present along Broad Ripple Ave and the adjoining streets most evenings and weekends.
Lastly, the report tackles the affects of the amount of liquor establishments on the public health at large citing reports from Drug Free Marion County. The report links alcohol sales and assault with many cases as well as specific new reports of criminal activity linked to the Bloomington location of Kilroy’s.
How will this turn out? Who knows. Kilroy’s rescinded their original parking variance request and offered up a variance issued in 1987 (click to open DMD staff report .pdf) by a previous development and are attempting to push their bar through on that basis. The BRVA has collected many letters of support from adjacent neighborhood organizations Meridian-Kesller, Warfleigh & Forest Hills as well as residents. DMD seems to disagree with the BRVA and specifically addresses the concerns noted in the remonstration.
What do you, our readers, think about another bar locating in Broad Ripple?
Urban Indy is a huge champion for cycling improvements within the Indianapolis area. Cycling is a low cost, low emission and healthy way to get around for short trips to the store, to see friends, get to work, school, etc. It is with these thoughts, that I am happy to pen this review of the recently unveiled Central Indiana Regional Bikeways Plan (click to open 79 page .pdf).
The Indy MPO has been gathering input over the past year from people via the Indyconnect site as well as some other public meetings. Existing bicycle plans were taken into account and a fiscally constrained long range plan for bicycling has been rolled out. Much like the region’s LRTP with covers roads, transit, etc the bike plan is constrained by the amount of funds available. Indeed, the bike plan itself was built upon the recently adopted regional long range plan. In that plan, 7% of all funds collected will be put towards bicycle & pedestrian plans with a grand total in 2010 dollars of $13.5 million available each year; $7.5 million per year would be used to fund bicycle infrastructure.
So what will this fund exactly? A look at the map and a perusal of the plan text itself shows a large amount of bike lanes for Marion County (Indianapolis), a large amount of side paths for the suburbs, and a large amount of trail projects dispersed around the entire MPO planning area. The planning horizon extends to 2035 and that period is sub-divided into 4 periods in which projects are to be built. Extensions of many existing trails are included in the plan with the extension of the Monon north, the completion of the Pennsey as well as extension of the B&O.
An in depth analysis shows that the trail projects seem to be the ones that account for the largest share of capital expenses. That is a shame since they are the safest and considered the most attractive to potential riders; the report even covers submitted comments. Respondants said one of the biggest hurdles to cycling in the region was the proliferation of roads and interaction with motorists on those roads. That hits at the heart of something we debate often here at Urban Indy in that making streets calmer for cyclists and pedestrians is a key concern to improving street-life. This report brings hard data to support that notion. Something else that strikes me is the disparity between bike lanes in the city and side paths in the suburbs. Indeed, side paths that already exist in the suburbs are cataloged with a large portion of them in Hamilton County. The plan breaks down the cost of side paths vs bike lanes, so it is easy to see why bike lanes are prescribed in most places instead of side paths. Going forward, the amount of bike lanes far surpasses side paths over the planning horizon. It should also be noted that there is no mention of facilities such as the Shelby Street bike track.
Something that makes me wonder is the lack of “special” projects that we have been overly excited about here at the blog. Projects like Georgia Street, the Cultural Trail and such seem to be absent from the plan. Indeed, these projects themselves were special expenditures not likely to be captured in a fiscally responsible and “practical” long range plan that spread money out to create more facilities. Also absent is a pedestrian plan where the other $6 million per year is to be spent. This will likely go towards general upkeep of sidewalks and such if I had to guess. Each project was assigned a score depending on how it served population & employment centers, how it integrates with present transit corridors as well as a multitude of other factors such as proximity to parks, libraries, health institutions, etc.
The plan also lays out policy implications and some dubious ones at that. They are big and could impact the quality of cycling in Indiana. They include first and foremost, the adoption of a cycling master plan. After that, they trickle down into supportive recommendations that include adopting a Complete Streets policy, establishing a bicycling advisory committee, hiring a dedicated staff for cycling programs (something that is now handled at least in Indy, by the DPW), requiring bike parking by new development, REDUCTIONS TO AUTOMOBILE PARKING, and ensuring bike-transit integration.
What the plan does NOT do, is lay out how bike lanes themselves may be constructed from a design perspective. I have personally advocated for larger buffers between automobile travel lanes and bike lanes. There is no mention of this in the report. There is mention of painted crossings which is nice however, there is nothing about painted bike boxes, something else I have spent keystrokes covering.
In that regard, it is good that this is a draft plan and it is now open to the public for comment until September 23rd, 2011. Go check out the report and submit comments so that you can voice any concerns that you may have about the plan.
Last week, a presentation was held at the Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple. At the meeting, the winning team displayed their first pass of the design of the garage. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of the .pdf (click here to open). I have included a couple of screen shots here to show the visually appealing aspects of the garage. Reading through the summary, I get the impression that these folks WANT to design a structure that fits into the context of the village. They do this by summarizing the different built forms currently present in the village, and how the new mixed use structure will compliment these themes.
I have been critical of the garage but for different reasons than some of the local political folk who view this as another opportunity to take a stab at Mayor Ballard. I will ask that any comments offered to this thread be directed at the design itself and not the issues that contributed to the selection of the site. We are now past that hurdle in the project and won’t be going back. Until we get the financials on the project, no need to waste keystrokes on spilled milk.
So, what do you think? I like how the College Ave face will address the street. And at two stories, appears that it will not be a hulking, out of scale structure like say, one of the many 5-10 story structures downtown. I also appreciate that they have made an attempt to include some sort of arts theme with the structure. Hopefully that are successful in what they set out to do, and it wont look like a big concrete block with spray paint added to it. One thing I am pleased to see is the amount of bike parking. Will this be provided free of charge? I would hope so devoid of a structured cycling fare collection system in the city; something also nice. Our Mayor has gone to great lengths to ensure that cycling is a priority in the city and in that regard I would hate to see that this structure charged to park bikes. Additionally, I see nothing about an improved bus stop on the sidewalk along College Ave where the route 17 normally travels. Wouldn’t it be nice if the garage incorporated a nice covered stop with it’s improvements to the area? Lastly, I see nothing about improving the crosswalk into the village, a question I raised the last time I blogged about this structure. One final note is that this design is still fluid. This was the first round of presentations to the public and the final product could look different.
The project team for the newly announced Broad Ripple mixed use parking structure is seeking input from the public regarding how the structure should appear and how artwork and aesthetics should be incorporated into the final design. Per their request,
“On June 13, Mayor Greg Ballard announced plans for a mixed-use parking development in Broad Ripple Village. The parking development – located on the lot at the southwest corner of the intersection of Broad Ripple Avenue, College Avenue and Westfield Boulevard – will include approximately 350 parking spaces, spaces for free bicycle parking, retail space and an IMPD substation.
The project team – which includes Keystone Construction, Newpoint Parking, Ratio Architects and Walker Parking Consultants – is seeking public feedback about art and aesthetics. The team also is working with the Indianapolis Art Center on ways to incorporate public art into the design.
If you are interested in providing input for the parking development, please email your comments to BRfeedback@keystone-corp.com or mail them to Keystone Corporation, Attention Broad Ripple Parking Development, at 47 S. Pennsylvania Street, Suite 1000, Indianapolis, IN 46204, by July 12.
Residents who want to learn more about the development may attend the Broad Ripple Village Association quarterly public meeting on Tuesday, July 19, at 7 p.m. at the Indianapolis Art Center.”
If you had a say, what would you suggest? I have included a couple of pictures of my own travels and what other city’s parking structures look like that have been enhanced by artwork or creative building practices to enhance the overall appearance.
Is there a creative way of introducing a transit stop for this garage? A meaningful addition that you think would enhance the outward reflection of the structure or a piece of artwork that could improve the quality of life for the neighborhood? The consulting team is listening, so let them know what you think would look good or be useful!
Last week, the Mayor’s Office announced that they had selected a winning proposal for a parking garage to be located in the Broad Ripple Village. The garage was hinted at when the parking meter lease was closed although details were very fuzzy at that point in time. Before I dive into an analysis, here are some basics according to the press release from the city:
Mayor Greg Ballard today announced the City’s selection of a developer and operator of a new mixed-use Broad Ripple parking development located on the lot at the southwest corner of the intersection of Broad Ripple Avenue and College Avenue. The parking garage will contain about 350 parking spaces. The first floor will feature retail space as well as a police substation provided free of charge to the City.
“Broad Ripple Village has long needed a garage of this magnitude to alleviate parking issues and allow for implementation of a residential parking permit system on neighborhood streets,” said Mayor Ballard. “Visitors to the Broad Ripple area will have a safe, secure, well-lit area to park their cars, while residents and their guests will more easily be able to find on-street parking near their homes.”
The total cost of the project is about $15 million, $6.35 million of which will be provided by the City of Indianapolis from the upfront payment in the parking meter proceeds, which must be used to fund infrastructure projects in the Downtown, Mass Ave and Broad Ripple areas. The project will not receive a tax abatement and is expected to generate about $350,000 in property taxes per year. The developer and operator, selected through an RFP process, is a partnership between Newpoint Parking, Keystone Construction, Ratio Architects and Walker Parking Consultants.
Contained in those two paragraphs are everything that defines the project as it stands. A new structure is going up, it will contain retail and a police station and a neighborhood permit program will be put into service. Urban Indy has spent plenty of keystrokes fighting the lease of the parking meters as well as the concept of a parking structure in the village. Kevin had a really great post earlier this year examining the need for more density in the village. Within that post, was a map highlighting the large number of surface parking located within the village that could possibly someday be used for useful purposes besides automobile parking given that a parking structure such as the one announced were to come to fruition.
So what happens next? This structure will begin to take shape this summer with completion coming sometime next year. While final design plans are not available, I would assume that some sort of streetscaping features as well as an improved crosswalk and perhaps a transit stop will be included with the final built form.
Looking further into the future, it would be nice to see some of the parking space that Kevin pointed out, be converted to some sort of other useful purpose such as infill development. A big factor in how the future of the village will develop is still being worked out with input sought from the Envision Broad Ripple meetings of the past couple years. The finished product from that process will be a new Neighborhood Village classification using form based codes as the guiding principal. According to volunteer director of the BRVA, and frequent Urban Indy reader Tom Healy,
“We’re working closely w/ DMD staff on a new zoning category called Neighborhood Village that will enshrine form-based code as a guiding principle. The new code is still in development but the community has been able to introduce components of it in several initiatives like the Broad Ripple Avenue repaving project, the recently proposed Midtown Redevelopment Area, and of special note given today’s announcement, the crafting of the Request for Qualifications for the mixed use parking structure.”
If all goes as planned, it would be nice to see these new codes put into service soon. I know that some recently proposed projects that were subjected to regulatory review were held to some of the standards being developed. Additionally, a circulator to reduce visitor’s need for a car would be a step in the right direction in helping to reduce parking requirements. Long term, and if you are a frequent reader and know my thoughts, a modern light rail system traversing the village would go even further towards reducing visitor’s need for automobiles altogether. However, a vision for that could be much further off.
In conclusion, I think I speak for many when I say it is sad to see land being used for parking garages. At least retail space has been preserved and a brownfield is being re-mediated where the new garage will be located. According to a developing Village Master Plan, increasing the density of residents in the village is a key long term goal towards building a stronger case for Broad Ripple rail transit. In that regard, it would be inspiring to see mixed-use apartments or condos going up on this site instead of more space for cars. Moreover, it would be nice to see increased transit options put in place via Indyconnect’s proposal that would decrease visitor’s need for automobiles, and thus the need for unsightly parking garages. I know that Tom shares my desires and he says as much,
“Don’t for a minute think this one structure will solve all of Broad Ripple’s parking dilemmas. But it’s an important step in the right direction. We still encourage our patrons, employees, clients and neighbors to bike, walk, ride IndyGo, carpool or take a cab when they visit the Village. If we have our way one day we’ll see the trolley return to College Ave.!”
I hope that for the sake of the future of Broad Ripple that this garage stimulates the trend of taking existing village surface parking and developing it into better uses, and that longer term, the garage can be looked back upon as a key moment in building a case for rail transit.
As a citizen of Indianapolis and a major supporter of mass transit, it should come as no surprise that I am always thinking about how we can pull off a successful light rail system. When I think about the key components that would create the best first step, there are many things to consider. First off, we must define the key characteristics of a transit line that will make it succeed:
- Connects activity centers
- Frequent service
- Be on the Way
I have given a lot of lip service to the benefits of a Broad Ripple to downtown light rail service. Many people when asked where a light rail route would make the most sense in Indy also come up with the same answer. Geographically at it’s core, a Broad Ripple to downtown service would connect activity centers and connect dense neighborhoods that are on the way to employment centers. It is the other three criteria which, if mishandled, would make a route of such proportions a pointless endevour. So it is these three points I intend to examine and bolster in this post.
As I pointed out in my initial summary, a route that connected these two activity centers would provide access for thousands of people to thousands of jobs. If a primary goal of light rail is economic development and environmental justice, a route like this would take thousands of vehicle miles off the road daily while successfully transporting people to their jobs. Thousands of jobs lie within walking distance of a potential route that connects these two activity centers.
Rapid service must be offered so that a reasonable commuting time can be acheived. Why spend the money if the resulting service offers a travel time that is woeful in comparison to taking a car? Knowing that this is a priority can also assist in picking an appropriate travel route. Limiting mixed traffic operations and road crossings where possible will insure that the most rapid service can be offered while still providing as many stops as possible to promote development near stations and reach as many dense population centers as possible. Finding that mix can be the most difficult part of designing a route.
If people are expected to abandon their cars and use transit, then a worthwhile level of service must be offered. Why won’t people wait for 30 to 45 minutes on a bus or train? Getting across Indianapolis in a car can be done in a half hour at a majority of times of the day. Thus, offering a service that arrives every 15 minutes or sooner must be designed. Anything more, will be the inflection point at which people opt to grab the keys when they leave for a trip.
The Proposed Route
Shown at the top of this post is a map that I created for my post, “Why Route Matters” from this past February. In that post, I laid out the basics of why a north/south route through midtown would provide a better return on investment compared to the NE Corridor currently under study by the MPO. Given the constraints that I have laid out above, lets look at the available geography afforded to the north and near north side of Indianapolis. Possible candidates for right of way include existing streets, private property and elevated tracks over existing roadways (ie: Clarian People Mover). In selecting the best route versus cost required to purchase right of way, existing streets offer a fantastic right of way. First, there is minimal need to purchase land from private property owners. Second, if the goal is to supplant cars from these areas, what better a way to do it then putting a train in place? Replacing cars with trains offers what may be the most politically difficult “sell” when it comes to planning a light rail system. However, that debate could be an entire post of it’s own. Furthermore, elevated tracks have become a thing of the past in most modern designs. Elevated tracks create barriers much like freeways do and are also unsightly and expensive.
I will divide my proposed route into multiple portions examining key focus areas. The lower portion will examine the Capitol & Illinois corridors. They provide excellent paths to the downtown job & activity centers. The upper portion will include a short jaunt on 38th street that would lead to College Ave. and ultimately Broad Ripple Ave/62nd Street.
Capitol & Illinois are currently one way streets with 3 or more lanes for autos. Does asking for one lane for LRT upon each of these corridors seems like a good compromise between providing reasonable automobile access as it currently exists and creating an option for rail transit? I believe that they do. Furthermore, a route that utilizes these streets provides virtually front door access to the thousands of medical jobs from 16th street on south; an area poised to grow as an employment center thanks to the construction of the Neuroscience Center at 16th street and future investment via the Biocrossroads innitative.
38th Street Portion
The 38th Street portion would utilize a short jaunt across 38th street between Capitol & College Ave. The least invasive way of doing this is by way of a median running transit route.
One station along this corridor would privide access to a number of apartment complexes as well as shopping centers and other locations in the neighborhood. Again, this is an area with a number of lanes in each direction in an existing wide right of way. Is asking for 1 dedicated lane each direction for this short portion asking a lot?
Perhaps the crown jewel of transit for Indianapolis could be summed up as the College Avenue corridor and Broad Ripple Avenue. Contained along these two corridors are the best preserved legacy of the streetcars of yesterday. At many intersections along College Avenue, from downtown to 62nd street, are existing or relics of past dense retail nodes surrounded by dense housing. Broad Ripple Village is the top node of them all boasting a complete strip of shops still standing up to the street itself. Various apartment developments dot the surrounding area providing a dense retail and residential neighborhood. It is this dense form of yesterday that combines with the automobile culture of today that creates the toughest sitution to shoehorn light rail of some sort back into the mix. College Avenue itself is a 4 lane automobile corridor with parking along both sides for much of it’s length. It is also a busy automobile corridor. A rough dimension to describe it’s width is 55′ between existing street curbs. Finding the right balance of dedicated right of way for transit and automobiles is a huge challenge. So how might we approach this opportunity to excel? One approach is to try shoehorning two dedicated lanes in the median as I proposed for 38th street. This could create some difficult situations for island platforms and could also lead to a reduction in automobile right of way making this a politically dicy proposal. It is the opinion of this author that this idea would not be a bad one. However, I live in the reality that weening people off of cars is going to take some compromise.
College Ave Solution
Taking a page from the Bus Rapid Transit dictionary, comes the notion of mixed operation with traffic with demand lanes at major street crossings. The number of potential stop lights from 38th street to Broad Ripple Avenue are 7 if we include the one at Broad Ripple Avenue. Traffic normally flows reasonably well along this path except at traffic signal crossings. Finding a way to manage rapid transit movement at these intersections could be a key opportunity to mixing trains with autos and still have an opportunity to offer a premium rapid transit service. Another option could be to only operate these demand lanes during peak commuting times giving lane priority to light rail. Locals should be used to what switching traffic patterns look like by travelling on Fall Creek Parkway during peak commuting times. There, the middle lane is changed in the mornings and evenings to give an extra lane to the direction of majority commuters; southbound priority in the morning and northbound priority in the evening.
By doing this, existing automobile traffic lanes could be maintained with a minimal obstruction while still being able to offer a premium transit service. In the end, negotiating something for transit where nothing currently exists, cannot be seen as a large request given the potential benefits.
Broad Ripple Ave Solution
The other difficult portion of a northside rail route is Broad Ripple Ave. In the early days of streetcar usage, Broad Ripple Ave. was the home of a street located rail in both directions where automobiles currently travel. If you have ever visited the Village on a warm summer day or a weekend, then you know that automobile congestion is already a difficult issue. How do we solve this? Part of the problem today is the search for free or cheap parking. Now that the parking meter deal is in place, this should help aleviate congestion. A large majority of all traffic congestion is caused by people circling the block (link to Primer on Parking) looking for available parking. With the new meters in place, turnover should increase and people looking for parking should decrease. If the reported parking garage is to be realized, then congestion for the village could be a problem of the past. However, for the purposes of this case study, I will assume that the existing congestion will remain.
In that respect, I offer the center lane which is currently reserved for turning, to be converted to a 2 way dedicated transit lane. This could be used by trains and by buses travelling through the village. It would only be 1 lane through the most dense portion of Broad Ripple Ave from College Ave, to just east of the Monon where some sort of 2 lane dedicated service could be installed that either uses the median or shifts automobile traffic in some fashion. An alternative to the single center transit lane, can be seen as the dashed line in the graphic. A 2nd lane could be added via this route to facilitate a true 2 way transit path through the village neighborhood. While this could hinder rapid transit through the village, it could also offer access to the side streets of the village with the added benefit of a 2nd dedicated transit lane. It should be noted that any transit lane that traverses the Broad Ripple village is likely to be subject to heated debate as business owners and residents are quite proud of the built environment. Anything that might upset that is likely to be a hotly contested debate. Finally, extending service to the Glendale area could provide what I propose be the only park and ride facility for such a transit route. There are ample surface lots on the property of the old Glendale Mall (now turned Target anchored shopping center) that could be used as park and ride for north side residents wishing to commute downtown for their day jobs.
Have I presented an air tight case for a northside light rail route? No. However, I think I have presented a fair assesement of the geography and some possible solutions to one of the tantalizing rail routes of our region. If done correctly, a rail route through the midtown area could capture thousands of daily vehicle trips, provide economic development potential along old streetcar routes, provide access to jobs and activity centers for thousands of residents as well as conventioners/tourists who visit the downtown area as well as potentially relieve congestion. This case study also highlights a route that could set Indianapolis down a path that could stimulate the rehabilitation of multiple neighborhoods along it’s route which are currently bearing the brunt of disinvestment thanks to suburban sprawl which the recent census has indicated is still on a runaway pace in this region. My analysis also suggests a route that is 100% contained within current automobile right of way; a notion which has not been taken up very often in America. Phoenix, AZ has come the closest with nearly the entire portion of its 20 mile light rail line running along existing auto right of way. This case study is not an airtight one, however it is one that I believe truly offers an ENOURMOUS potential to outperform any commuter rail or BRT route currently drawn on a map by Indyconnect.
Special thanks to fellow Urban Indy writer Graeme Sharpe for some concepts applied in this case study
A recent study by Bundle & The Street, lends some credibility to the notion that purchasing a home in the suburbs based upon the premise that it’s “cheaper” may not really be that true at all. The study focused on a number of major and minor metro regions across the nation and pitted their daily commute times, distances and also added the metric averaging what a household might spend on transportation per month. The numbers paint a striking picture. A couple of infographics were released with the report that displayed some of the maximum and minimum commutes. You can peruse through the data for yourself if you are curious. It is quite striking the number of hours wasted in some places, and how many not wasted in others, when compared to Indianapolis.
If you travel in urban or transportation study circles, my post is late to the game. So I thought I would take this a step further, and compare Indianapolis, to a few of it’s peer cities; or as Brookings is now calling a group of these similar performers, “The New Heartland”. Brooking’s released a report recently called, “The State of Metropolitan America” and in it, examined how some metro areas are performing, or underperforming. A better definition can be taken directly from the report:
New Heartland metro areas are also fast growing, highly educated locales, but have lower shares of Hispanic and Asian populations than the national average. These 19 metro areas include many in the “New South” where blacks are the dominant minority group, such as Atlanta and Charlotte, as well as largely white metro areas throughout the Midwest and West, such as Indianapolis and Portland, OR
Aaron Renn, whom I consider one of the foremost authority on urban study, broke down the report a while back. It’s a great read if you have the time. Some of the cities that are classified as “New Heartland”, and whom I will be using for comparison in this analysis are Atlanta, Charlotte, Portland, Kansas City & Minneapolis. There is no basis for their selection except that they are New Heartland cities. The data was taken from this link that includes the data for all 90 cities examined.
If we look at the data presented for these cities, we can see that they perform as follows:
The first thing that jumps out, is that the typical commute distance is similar for all cities, despite a shorter distance for Portland. The next thing that grabs us, is the amount of money spent each month on automobile related expenses. The harder to capture metric, and what may bridge the link between the data and perception, is the following graphic. I have taken the 90 metro image, and highlighted the cities in focus. You can see that some cities have a “taller” bar than others. This indicates the amount of people on the region’s roadways at peak commuting times. I think this tells the story about cities like Atlanta who have a reputation of longer waiting times in traffic, but what is not really indicated on the table above.
In wrapping up, I thought that it would be interesting to contrast the transit systems provided by each of these cities. Indianapolis and Kansas City both lack any sort of rail transit system while the rest do. The cost data would suggest that Portland & Atlanta are cheaper places to commute. They do both have somewhat robust rail systems that afford passengers a hassle free commute to their respective region’s core. Minneapolis and Charlotte are both just entering this game while KC & Indy both still struggle to find the civic will to make this happen. Indy is by far the worst city on this list in terms of general public transit options. The fact that it lists the lowest amount of people on the road, yet one of the higher amounts of monthly spend, points to a larger dependence on the automobile to get to and from work; it is also, the longest commute distance of any of the cities examined.
What else can we say about the data provided here? From a shear cost comparison, Portland & Atlanta both look like nice places to move to should you want to spend less on commuting. However, Atlanta and Minneapolis both offer a seemingly frustrating drive due to the amount of people on the roads.
Locally, should Indianapolis continue to grow as the Brookings New Heartland typology suggests, commuting expenses could get worse as more people choose to live here. With the price of parking set to double in the next couple of years due to the recent parking meter lease, the monthly spend for people commuting to the downtown area only stands to increase. Coupled with the expected economic rebound, and oil prices being driven up, Indy commuters are looking down the barrel of monthly auto related spending north of $500 per household. To that end, these data points paint a pretty good picture for transit advocates.
If you are a regular visitor to this site, then you are undoubtedly familiar with our complete and undivided support for improvements to our region’s transit system. Sure, we all have specific talking points that we feel would represent SMARTER choices, but at the heart is this unifying vision of improved transit options. As advocates, we can lose sight of how obvious this is to us from time to time; and conversely, how oblivious others may be to it. So how do we address this? A simple education at the basic level is needed. So here are a few reasons why supporting Indyconnect is important to improving our region’s transit.
Improving the Current Bus System
IndyGO has been operating on a skeleton budget for a number of years, supported primarily by local property taxes. Low service based on low financial support has driven a perception that IndyGO operates as a failing business unit due to poor management. IndyGO operates on such a low budget, that compared to other cities, Indianapolis consistently ranks near 100th in major American metro’s for spending on transit. What this translates to is poor job access for people who do not own a car; whether that is by choice or neccesity. Poor job access alone is a gateway into a breakdown of numerous things. Low income citizen services. Poor economic sustainability. No incentive for commercial investment along transit corridors. This year, IndyGO announced that due to a shortage of funding, it was planning on reducing service. The already sparce frequency (approx 30 minutes) would have been cut to an hour at peak times. Luckily, the city stepped in to provide some financing options to stave this off for at least another year at which point other options will be sought. These are the facts, so at what point does the blame fall on civic leaders for not providing better options for transit financing?
The Drawbacks in our Current System
Currently, the city of Indianapolis basically requires residents to own one car per adult. Not only is this unfair to the less wealthy among us, it’s environmentally unsustainable, requires our dependence on large quantities of oil from places that don’t like us, and strains our infrastructure. Road infrastructure is an inadequate solution for transportation problems as it allows citizens to spread out across the land, leaving behind both the inner city and inner ring suburban areas to fend for themselves with a decreased population and tax base. Meanwhile, displaced residents in the border counties still get to use our city’s streets to get to work or an event, at no cost to them.
From aesthetic point of view, road and parking infrastructure is unattractive, and the older it gets, the worse it looks. It’s not hard to see the difficulty the city will have in repopulating these wide-open and desolate spaces. Lafayette Square has been successful in attracting a population of recent immigrants. Other places in the city have been less so. What is the strategy to save these places? Is there one?
The High Cost of Owning a Car
Perhaps the largest, but frighteningly little-talked about problem is that automobile infrastructure is expensive to build and maintain. Any new building project in the city is required to include a parking lot, or apply for a variance. The application process adds time and cost to the project. This discourages true urban development. Additionally, parking is a huge policy problem which a city must get right or the local economy is absolutely distorted. Our Indianapolis based parking system shifts costs from drivers onto the general public (see graphic). If parking policies are done correctly then a lot of other things start to make sense (like mass transit).
Even without subsidized parking or mandated parking requirements, the cost of providing parking to businesses in urban areas is very high. Other researchers have concluded that parking requirements (say 4 per 1000 LSF) increase the cost of urban development by up to 50%. The Indianapolis requirement to provide 2 / 800 LSF for CBD 2 zoning would increase costs ~ 25%, and that is why parking garages or loans are often subsidized by the city government to make up the cost. We all want parking accessibility, and the city knows that surface lots are horrible, but we can’t afford to pay for parking unless the costs are hidden or taken out in taxes. Assuming that space is even available, a 1:1 relationship is usually needed for Leasable SF vs. Parking SF. Underground parking is usually an option, but increases the cost of construction even further, making it an unattractive solution. Thus the typical solution is to put a parking garage on every block, which spreads out the city and limits density. It also mandates a lower value for real estate, because land that could be leased at rates up to $30/LSF is now being used as parking which returns $12/LSF, and in effect devalues the urban area by 20% to 33%. This means economic activity and tax revenues also fall.
The benefit of mass transit is that instead of providing on-site or near site parking at every location, a system-wide solution can be used which provides mobility and accessibility over a wide area. Thus, parking requirements can be eliminated and developers can base their parking decisions on local market values. In urban areas this can lower costs of parking from 33% to 11% of overall project costs and eliminate the sprawling effects of parking requirements near TOD stations. Of course, once you get rid of the need to park, you can also reduce the need to drive and eliminate a significant amount of the auto-infrastructure in the urban area.
An anecdote about personal automobile spending habits
I’d like to wrap up with a final thought on personal transportation finance. The next time you are doing a budget check, add up the amount of money spent on insurance. Gas. Car payment. Oil changes. Parking. If one adds these costs up, and compared them to a monthly transit pass, the proportion is huge.
Why is investment in transit important for Indianapolis? It provides a gateway for smarter economic development. It helps shape a safer and better looking city. It creates a progressive image to the rest of the world. It represents a more efficient investment in not just our transportation system, but in a system that better influences our built environment.
Editor’s Note: This article was written with input from Kevin & Graeme as well. Thanks guys!
Editor’s Note: This picture comes from frequent commentor Chris Barnett regarding population density in Indy as of the 2000 Census
If you are one of the few who have followed my writing, then you know I penned a fairly strong blog on my own site (follow the link to read) a number of months ago when it was announced that IPS was aiming to sieze property adjacent to IPS School #58 on the east side of Indy. It caused an uproar with urban enthusiasts here in the city for good reason. First off, siezing people’s homes so that a parking lot could be constructed is sacreligous for an urbanist. Not to mention all the associated downfalls of this from environmental water issues, to the social implications as well as taking 7 paying properties off the tax roll in the neighborhood.
I sent a fairly terse letter to the IPS school board at that time and recieved a reply from Annie Roof, who was one of the discenting voters when this issue was posed to the board at the time. She thanked me for my input and asked that I attend the public meeting that will be held regarding this issue. Well folks, the time has come and tonight is that meeting. It will be in the Board Room of the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services, 120 E. Walnut St. Unfortunately, I will not be attending since my Calculus grade is pretty important and I have a quiz tonight. However, I will be sending another letter to the board that closely resembles what follows after this paragraph.
I wanted to take this space to highlight a few things that IPS could do when it decides to finally send the shovels to IPS #58. Instead of mowing down homes in an act reminiscent of the interstate construction days of the 1950′s these suggestions offer alternatives that are considered socially responsible, urban in nature and altogether a better use of the land available to IPS #58.
First off, if IPS is going to add some facilities to the property where the parking lot currently exists, they should look at 54th & College Ave in our own community. There lies the relatively new Fresh Market. It is a new supermarket that was constructed in a space with many of the same constraints facing school #58; namely how do we find parking for our peoples? What they did was innovative for Indianapolis. The first part of their construction was to build the super structure in a way that would accomodate rooftop parking. In essense a parking garage on top of the building. The footprint of the Fresh market is roughly that of the parking lot adjacent to school #58 and it appears that there are between 40-50 parking spots on the roof of their facility. IPS could look at the same way to accomodate teachers parking on top of a new structure that they wish to build on the existing parking lot.
Next, the loading and unloading of buses. This appear to be done in an alleyway on the east side of the school. A simple way to make loading and unloading safer, would be to move this to the west side of the school, along Linwood and directly onto the sidewalk in front of the school doors. The current parking setup along Linwood, places cars along the west side so that southbound drivers can park. Changes could be made that moved the allowable parking along Linwood to be on the eastside of the street, so that northbound drivers could use parking along the curb. Mark off the area directly in front of the school as bus only parking and call it good. Since buses unload on their right side anyway, students would depart the bus directly onto the school’s property.
These two suggestions both represent one tried and true method of solving parking that is currently at work within our community, and another that represents decades worth of practice in unloading children at schools. Both accomodate what IPS wishes to accomplish with #58 and avoids the social, environmental and tax zapping elements with the currently proposed process of dealing with the current facilities of IPS #58.
The local media reported recently on an announcement by the city that they have chosen to lease the operation of metered parking to ACS, a private company out of Dallas, TX. Kirsten of Urban Indy reported on this previously before the announcement and discussed what it could mean for the future of parking. There were many things pointed out such as how this has failed cities like Chicago with the political will to do this on the city level. She has an analysis of the released proposal up now as well. Aaron Renn of the Urbanophile seems to be talking a lot about this lately in regards to Chicago, and Indianapolis and in the larger context, private leasing of public infrastructure. It tackles the policy side more than the planning and and public interface side of things, although he does touch on that as well. It’s good reading if you have the time.
The target of this article is based upon a statement made by Mayor Greg Ballard regarding the Broad Ripple neighborhood. He stated, “ …the $35 million from ACS will be used in part to pay for a new parking garage in Broad Ripple. The city is already scouting locations and hope to announce details in the near future.”
Recently, Broad Ripple Village business owners made a plea for more parking in the village area in the form of a “parking garage”. They asked for this apparently to reduce the amount of walking that people have to do to get to their shops. They also cited areas like Glendale (located at 62nd & Keystone Ave roughly a mile away) would be taking their shoppers when people couldn’t find quick parking in the Village. Glendale, they claim, can do this largely in part to it’s mall heritage and glut of open parking that is ALWAYS available. Users there are never charged a penny to park.
If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting the Broad Ripple village, you will note that parking IS a major concern. Especially for those not familiar with the area. And while the strip through the village makes for a nearly non-existant chance at parking ,if you merely drive a few blocks off that beaten path, you are likely to find parking. Most any place you will park throughout the neighborhood will highlight the more 2nd tier set of businesses that while equally as charming are not on the Avenue.
However, comparing the Broad Ripple shopping experience and the Glendale shopping experience is on the surface laughable. Glendale contains a Target, Macy’s and a few chain restaurants. Conversely, Broad Ripple is by a large majority, niche local businesses with only a few small chains permeating the mix. Additionally, my wife pointed out that on a recent trip to Broad Ripple to make some business meetings, she was unable to locate business hours on a handfull of shops located on or near the strip; that were closed in the middle of the day. Perhaps those same business owners complaining about business lost to Glendale would be able to retain said “lost business” if they were frank about when they are open? I digress…
With all this in mind, in a recent meeting, some business owners asked that a parking garage be constructed somewhere in the neighborhood. Even more alarming, was at the meeting that was conducted, Ryan Vaughn, City-County Council president and representative of the area, proclaimed his support for just such a structure.
I’d be remiss at this point if I wasn’t proclaiming my continued dismay at this idea. As those of you who follow me know, I am a HUGE advocate of an improved transit system for Indianapolis. Broad Ripple is a prime target for some sort of transportation improvement whether it is in the form of increased frequency of buses, or more attractive streetcar service from downtown; as has been advocated by many a people in the area. On the surface, I agree with a price increase in parking. It’s been literally decades since this happened, and I philosophically believe that a doubling in parking rates will cause people to think twice about parking and look at cheaper, and more sustainable, options like taking the bus. The downstream affect of this is building a trend of increased ridership, lower parking requirements for downtown development, and an increase in good urban design that also has the happy offset of increased tax revenue. But that is walking a long line of,”if this happens, that will happens”
As a group, we at Urban Indy have spent some time discussing this issue. At this point the parking garage plan has the backing of the City Council area rep & president. The Mayor, and the largely vocal Broad Ripple Village business owners. That likely means, a parking garage is coming. So how do urbanists try and get their fair share of this pie? We can look at other examples of parking garages good and bad. A typical downtown parking garage usually takes up a lot of space and has no interface with the public. FAIL.
We can look at the Ivy Tech Multimodal Center being constructed at the Indianapolis campus located at Fall Creek Parkway and Meridian Street. It will be 4 floors tall with the top 3 floors consisting of automobile parking. The ground floor will contain a library and a Bus Transit center. I have not been on site recently to survey the progress but on the surface, that is a good mixing of the available transit modes and the library is obviously a win.
In Bloomington, IN (and I have never seen this structure at all) there is another garage with a Scotty’s Brewhouse (regional bar) and a Subway that both seem to be doing well.
Both of these models offer something which the city could look at when designing a structure for the Broad Ripple area. With all the parking garages going up around town, there should be some sort of accountability for the continued promotion of automobile oriented transportation that is wildly proliferating around town. Just off the top of my head, I know that Wishard will be getting a huge parking structure. IUPUI is finishing up the California Street garage, and recently, Clarian announced an expansion in the area of 16th and Capital, which will also (surprise…) include an 1100 space garage; albeit with some allowance for first floor commercial space for medical and perhaps some other street level access.
A wish list of features that we at Urban Indy would like to see:
1. Include attractive first floor retail spaces
2. Match style of nearby structures
3. Address sidewalk directly; no pedestrian tunnels, skywalks, or interior mall spaces
4. Design structure so it can be repurposed into another use when Indy transit system reduces need for extra parking
5. Enact a market based pricing scheme for all parking spots (on-street and structure)
6. Include reduced/subsidized parking for bicyclists (and lockers/shower facilities)
7. Eliminate all on-site/off-street parking requirements for local properties