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Transit Oriented Development

INHP acquires more properties for affordable housing near IndyGo stops

July 29, 2019 |Hayleigh Colombo

Indianapolis Business Journal

The Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership has purchased three more sets of properties strategically located by IndyGo bus lines in its quest to spur the development of affordable housing near the routes.

The acquired properties—located at the former headquarters of retail developer Sandor at 22nd and Meridian Streets, the northwest corner of 25th and Delaware streets, and the northeast corner of New York and Rural streets—are the latest acquisitions in INHP’s $15 million Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Fund.

The fund was launched February in collaboration with Michigan-based Cinnaire, a community development financial institution with offices in Indianapolis, which will manage the fund. At that time, INHP announced it had already purchased 401 E. Southern Ave. near Garfield Park and 2163 N. Illinois St.

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How the Red Line is expected to affect home values along the route

Kellie Hwang, Indianapolis Star March 29, 2019

Real estate agent Joe Lackner is well-versed in the Garfield Park neighborhood.  

He knows to talk up the elements that make the south Indianapolis area special: the strong community, the summer farmers markets and the popularity of First Friday at the Tube Factory. 

But another major upcoming amenity is poised to bring even more attention to the area: the Red Line. Lackner said the bus rapid transit system, which will run down Shelby Street from Fountain Square, cutting through Garfield Park and Bean Creek, has “added to the frenzy” of the developing neighborhood.

“We have already seen the values in Garfield escalate considerably due to the high prices in Fountain Square and now Bates-Hendricks driving first time buyers our way,” he said.

Construction materials are laid out down College Ave. in Indianapolis as construction crews build infrastructure for the Red Line bus route on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Red Line will run from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis, to the University of Indianapolis and more.

 (Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)

Construction materials are laid out down College Ave. in Indianapolis as construction crews build infrastructure for the Red Line bus route on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Red Line will run from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis, to the University of Indianapolis and more.

Lackner said the last two homes he sold in Garfield Park had multiple offers in less than one day. Some homes that are priced right and in good condition will go before he can even put up a sign. Three years ago, these homes were priced at an average of $90,000. Now they are selling for $130,000 or more, Lackner said.

The 13-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor runs from Broad Ripple down to the University of Indianapolis, passing by plenty of single-family housing along the way, particularly on College Avenue and the south side. In general, experts expect the Red Line will have a positive effect on home values along the route.

Katie Wertz is a senior associate for Greenstreet Ltd., an Indianapolis real estate development, brokerage and consulting firm that helped IndyGo and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) determine the locations for Red Line stations. Wertz said she believes once neighborhoods develop the right mix of amenities, which can include transportation, housing prices will likely increase.

In 2018, the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors (MIBOR) and MPO conducted the Community Preference Survey, reaching 2,163 adults in central Indiana aged 18 or older. Results showed that most respondents had little interest in living in residential-only areas and preferred living in mixed-use neighborhoods with amenities like shops and businesses.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents were satisfied with the availability of public transportation where they live, while 34 percent were pleased with the shops and restaurants within walking distance of their homes.

“What we’re seeing in the market both national and locally is a rising demand for places that are walkable and mixed-use with mass transit places,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of those places.”

An amenity for buyers

John Creamer, a real estate agent with Century 21, said some of his clients purchased homes specifically to be close to the Red Line. He points to a couple from Chicago who frequently rides public transportation and looks at the BRT as a plus.

He said the average price of a home on College Avenue three years ago was $205,000, while the average price in the last 12 months was $247,000. Creamer believes some of that increase is directly affected by the opening of the Red Line.

“The market has been good,” he said. “There are so many desirable businesses on College (Avenue), mostly community-oriented restaurants and pubs that people can walk to.”

Creamer said the Red Line construction hasn’t deterred certain home buyers, who are looking to the long term and making decisions based on what the area will eventually look like.

“When people purchase a home or even lease, looking at the next 5 years purchase, that construction is obvious, some people know it’s coming for sure, for those people want to get downtown IU medical center, know they can get on it this coming September.”

Chris Pryor, vice president of government and community relations at MIBOR, said he sees similarities in the Red Line to the development of the Monon Trail, which saw a 10-mile stretch in Indianapolis completed in 1999, and Cultural Trail, which was finished in 2013.

“When they were proposed, people objected to them and thought they would have a negative impact on property values,” he said. “The opposite has been true for those, and it’s seen as a premium for homes on those trails or in close proximity.”

Few construction concerns from buyers

Peter Stewart, an independent broker, is selling a property on College Avenue and 55th Street with an asking price of $225,000. While there’s construction out front, he hasn’t run into any issues.

“I thought it was going to have more of an impact than it has,” he said. “We’ve been listed for about five months and I haven’t had one negative comment.” 

He thinks most prospective buyers understand the location and go into showings well aware of the construction.

“I’ve been in the business for over a decade, and see things like this as a big plus,” he said. “It’s a big pain in the butt while they do the work, but you’re seeing the benefits in the long term.”

Construction cones sit around a sewer grate along College Ave. in Indianapolis where construction crews are building infrastructure for the Red Line bus route on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Red Line will run from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis, to the University of Indianapolis and more.

(Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)

Construction cones sit around a sewer grate along College Ave. in Indianapolis where construction crews are building infrastructure for the Red Line bus route on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Red Line will run from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis, to the University of Indianapolis and more.

Kelly Lavengood, real estate agent for Plat Collective, said the increase of average sales price from 2017 to 2018 was 10.5 percent for College Avenue and the two blocks on either side of the street. The days a property was on the market also decreased.

Lavengood personally purchased a commercial property on Central Avenue and 38th Street that will become her new office, and she said its location on both the Red and Purple lines were factors in her decision.

“People moving into neighborhood are really aware of Red Line project and excited about it,” she said. “For the most part, people moving in are planning to use it in some capacity.”

Stewart has a different take. He said home buyers in the area purchasing homes of “$200,000 or more” are “typically not going to be bus riders.”

Will homeowners use the Red Line?

Some current homeowners are also skeptical. Perry Hammock, 65, has lived on Central Avenue and 54th Street for 30 years, and he is only a few blocks away from the Red Line.

“I don’t see the Red Line in any way helping my property value,” he said. “You can take the bus Downtown now and the (Red Line) might only save you five minutes. I don’t know if it will help change much at all.”

As for riding the Red Line himself, Hammock doesn’t see many reasons why he would use it. He said he wouldn’t be able to get directly to some of the places he usually goes Downtown, and it would only take him a few more minutes to drive.

For others, the uses of the Red Line seem clear.

Tim Treat, 31, purchased a home in March 2017 on 49th Street and Guilford Avenue, which puts him several blocks away from two Red Line stops. He and his wife supported the 2016 public transit ballot referendum that increased income taxes to help fund the Red Line.

“I’m excited about the Red Line potential to build up the transit corridor developing along College (Avenue), which adds significantly to our home values,” he said. “Having more options to get around the city attracts more diverse more people to the area. That will also bring more development and more stuff to do, more restaurants and more things we want and need in the neighborhood.”

He and his wife work at IUPUI and drive separately because they have different schedules. They don’t currently use the bus because “it’s unreliable for a Downtown commute,” and he said it would take him “over an hour” to get to work.

He also sees the Red Line as a positive for the overall community.

“People who don’t have cars currently rely on underfunded and unreliable bus system,” he said. “This has the ability to reach more jobs, which will possibly increase their ability to earn. I don’t look at it as something just for people who currently drive.”

How BRT has affected other cities

A number of real estate agents and housing experts are optimistic about the bus line attracting buyers and potentially raising housing prices, particularly on or near the route. Sean Northup, deputy director of MPO, believes there will be a positive impact.

“Transit is a market enhancer, not necessarily a market maker,” he said. “Based on observations from other cities, we absolutely expect more buyer interest closer to the corridor, and we’ll probably see higher prices after the transit line is built than before.”

Construction materials are laid out down College Ave. in Indianapolis as construction crews build infrastructure for the Red Line bus route on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Red Line will run from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis, to the University of Indianapolis and more.

(Photo: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)

Construction materials are laid out down College Ave. in Indianapolis as construction crews build infrastructure for the Red Line bus route on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The Red Line will run from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis, to the University of Indianapolis and more.

In 2017, the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) published a study from the University of Florida that focused on single-family home sales near the Lane Transit District’s Emerald Express BRT service in Eugene, Oregon. For every 100 meters closer to a station, researchers found an increase of $823 to a home sale’s price in 2005, $1,056 in 2010, and $1,128 in 2016.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has also been beneficial to home values, according to a 2019 study from Cleveland State University. The GCRTA features buses, including BRT, light rail and trolleys. The study discovered neighborhoods that gained transit saw a 3.5 percent increase in property values within a decade. It also found that employment increased by 3.1 percent, and poverty decreased by 12.9 percent. 

Wertz said that national research shows that most of the increase of property values tends to happen from when a transit line is announced to when it opens. But Indianapolis might be different.

“Indianapolis is not known for its transit system, so it may take longer for people to see the benefits of living on or near the transit line, in order to raise property values,” she said.

Kellie Hwang is a reporter at IndyStar. You can email her at kellie.hwang@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @KellieHwang.

Housing Near Transit Drives Economic Prosperity

By Thomas P. Healy

Housing costs gobble up the largest share of Americans’ household income. Adding transportation costs to the mix takes an even larger bite. In Indianapolis, combined housing and transportation costs average 45% of the family budget, which limits economic mobility.

A broad-based coalition of community development organizations, local government officials, philanthropic groups, neighborhood leaders, and fair housing and transit advocates are collaborating on ways to stabilize costs. They want to leverage the massive investment in the Marion County Transit Plan to spur widespread community prosperity.

As an organization committed to creating conditions for working people to be self-sufficient and meet basic needs without public or private assistance, the Indiana Institute for Working Families (IIWF)  sees access to affordable housing near transit as a way to increase economic mobility. “If we can build out our transit system and build housing in a more strategic way, we help maintain self-sufficiency,” said Jessica Fraser, IIWF director.

Fraser is concerned that many families are being stretched too far. “Forty-one percent of renters in Marion County are spending more than 35% of their income on rent,” she said. “Almost 10% of households in Marion County have no vehicle available to them.” Adding transportation costs on top of housing costs can create more economic hardships. “Families need to find affordable housing, transportation to work and school, and make sure they are near access to food,” she said. “It’s important to get both affordable housing and reliable transportation.”

INCLUSION AND AFFORDABILITY

Metropolitan areas around the country have leveraged investments in transit by making changes to land use and zoning regulations to encourage—and in some cases even mandate—that multi-family residential developments include a percentage of affordable units. Called inclusionary zoning, such regulations are seen by advocacy groups like the Center for Transit-Oriented Development as a way to “enhance community stability and sustainability and ensure that low-income households are not isolated in concentrations of poverty.”

However, this tool is not available in Indiana. In 2017, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation that precludes local units of government from establishing equitable housing requirements without prior authorization from the legislature.

Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, said that because the General Assembly made inclusionary zoning difficult to achieve, “We’re missing affordable housing from being created. We don’t get an opportunity to say ‘it is a priority for us as a community to insure there is housing availability for people who are working and can’t afford the cost of being near their jobs.’”

The Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership® (INHP) has taken a creative approach to circumventing Indiana’s legislative roadblock. On February 5, INHP announced it had joined with Cinnaire, a Michigan-based community development financial institution (CDFI), to establish the city’s first equitable transit-oriented development (ETOD) fund to insure that affordable housing is available near transit stops.

“Inclusionary zoning is something we cannot be distracted by,” said Joe Hanson, executive vice president of strategic initiatives for INHP. “We have the ability to create environments for private and public sectors to work together toward a common goal and find a way to help the City leverage private-sector resources.”

The INHP/Cinnaire $15 million ETOD fund does just that. To build the $3 million equity portion of the fund, INHP pledged $1.5 million of a 2015 Lilly Endowment grant. The City of Indianapolis committed $1 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds, and JPMorgan Chase’s PRO Neighborhoods program contributed $500,000. Hanson added: “It doesn’t happen without Cinnaire.”

Rick Laber, Cinnaire executive vice president of new ventures, is in charge of assembling $12 million in lending capital from banks as well as for managing the fund. So far, First Merchants Bank, National Bank of Indianapolis, Lake City Bank, and First Financial Bank have committed a total of $5 million as lines of credit. “Community banks are motivated to give back to their communities,” Laber said. This is part of their corporate culture, and it also helps banks meet federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requirements. “Essentially what the CRA is saying is, if you’re taking deposits from folks that live in your community, you need to also make investments and loan products available as well,” he said. That makes the fund a powerful CRA tool for banks. “They might lose a little money on it or break even, but they get CRA credit and that helps them with the regulators,” Laber said.

Such enlightened self-interest will likely help the fund reach its goal of acquiring properties within a 15-minute walk radius of a transit station, either to preserve or to spur the development of 1,000 affordable housing units. INHP’s Hanson said, “We’re looking for sites that can sustain mixed-income and mixed-use like first-floor retail that provides resources to the community.” INHP won’t develop the sites, he said. “We will sell to anyone that can deliver the affordable housing.”

Two properties have already been acquired along the Red Line—one near Garfield Park and the other just south of Fall Creek on Illinois Street. Hanson said INHP is optimistic ETOD will help reduce transportation costs for households and improve their quality of life. “Insuring that low- and moderate-income families have access to safe, affordable housing and high-quality transit provides tools for true economic mobility,” he said. “If they have access to affordable housing and quality transit, it opens more doors to jobs, education, health care, and food.”

Data source: FTA. CLICK TO ENLARGE

INHP’s focus will be on properties in proximity to bus rapid transit lines that are already generating interest from the development community. The Federal Transit Administration has identified a national trend: Once a major transit infrastructure investment is announced, it sends a signal to the development community that prompts private sector investment (see infographic). Such interest drives up acquisition costs that in turn make affordable housing projects less likely. INHP’s Hanson said the timing of the ETOD fund announcement was deliberate. “We wanted to get ahead of the trend so we could ultimately maximize the opportunity to help low- and middle-income families.”

TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT

During his time working with IndyGo on the Marion Transit Plan, Oregon-based transit consultant Jarrett Walker said that one of the goals of expanded transit service is to provide citizens of all ages, abilities, and incomes with improved access for everyday needs. “A complete transit network provides liberty and opportunity to so many people,” he said in an interview. “Transit’s a win-win.”

Walker’s work here focused on encouraging IndyGo to create a complete transit network. “The Red Line is a great thing. You’re getting a lot of federal money to build it. The fact that you’re getting it in Midtown doesn’t mean somebody else loses,” he said. “Transit succeeds precisely because there are other people who benefit from it. That’s what gives it the ridership. Transit achieves high ridership by being useful to lots of people, not to any particular kind of person. High ridership arises from diversity.”

He added that one of the potential benefits of the Marion County Transit plan is that it can spur the development of apartment buildings with fewer parking spaces. “That may sound technical but it makes a huge difference because if you build less parking you can build more density and make those units more affordable.”

Zoning regulations mandate the number of spaces required even if those spaces are unused. According to a report [PDF] by Gary Cudney, senior vice president at the engineering firm WGI, the 2018 median construction cost for a new parking garage was $20,450 per space. That does not include the cost of land and other project soft costs.

Walker observed that this expense is one that tenants end up paying for. “One of the keys to affordability and one of the things the community should be advocating for, if it wants affordable housing, is housing with less parking,” he said. And for such developments to work, Walker said they must be located in proximity to a transit stop.

Sean Northup, deputy director of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization, was instrumental in hiring Walker, so it’s no surprise he agrees about parking. “Parking is totally the enemy of affordable housing,” he said. “Around transit, you have an opportunity to make a big impact if you’re not assuming that every unit needs one or two parking spaces and every resident is driving.”

Northup said that early in the Marion County Transit Plan process, a land use analysis informed station placement. “Now the stations are set and it becomes a conversation about what’s allowed to happen,” he said. But to unlock the development potential, it requires making the case to property owners that their properties are more valuable because they’re located in proximity to a transit line.

Making that argument one property at a time is a recipe for frustration. Another route taken by other communities is to introduce an overlay district for multiple parcels. The effect, Northup said, is to change “use by right” zoning in all land within proximity to transit stops to encourage walkable, mixed-income, mixed-use developments. “The great irony of this is that the purple, blue, and red [BRT] lines are all located in historic transit corridors, and what’s built there now is currently illegal,” he said. He noted that if one travels the BRT corridors today there are taller buildings built to the corner with very little parking; lot coverage with no side setbacks; and wide sidewalks. “All of the kinds of things that are really in demand and easy to use if on foot are illegal,” he said. Obtaining the necessary variances under current zoning can add an entire year to the development process and cost thousands of dollars.

THE “D” WORD: DENSITY

EPA graphic. CLICK TO ENLARGE

While property owners might be encouraged by beneficial economic impact, neighborhoods can be uncomfortable with infill developments that encourage density—the mix of uses and population that transit serves so well. The frequent refrain is, “Do we really need more apartments?”

To which Katie Wertz replies, “Really, Indianapolis is not building enough housing overall at every price point.” Wertz is a senior associate at Greenstreet, Ltd., a local real estate development, brokerage, and consulting firm that recently completed a market analysis for the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors® and the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis.

“What we found is that people are now choosing to find housing, and then look for a job. If we’re not building the right kind of housing, they’re going to go elsewhere,” she said. That makes it harder for Indy to attract and retain new residents. “One of the links to transit oriented development is when we build housing in a more compact, walkable place, it not only helps an underserved market, but also saves money for the City and generates higher revenues so we can add streetlights, upgrade parks, and pave roads,” she said.

Housing demand in Indianapolis is also noted in Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies annual State of the Nation’s Housing report. It found that “a growing number of low-income renters are competing for a shrinking number of low-rent units and rapid growth in high-income renters over the last 10 years has outnumbered growth in high-rent units.”

Daniel McCue, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies, worked on the report, which tracked housing stock and demand. “As we looked through the data we saw a story across the nation of the loss of low-rent units,” he said. Another story McCue saw was the growth in high-income renters, which happened after the housing downturn, as well as long-term growth in the number of low-income renters.

McCue said what the data shows for Indy in terms of demand is both high growth in the number of low-income renters and strong growth in high-income renters as well. “I think that is partially explaining why it seems all of the new developments are high end,” he said. “There is demand at the high end and it’s really spurring this rental construction.”


Group launches $15M loan fund for housing near IndyGo stops

Hayleigh Colombo

The Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership has launched a loan fund intended to create and preserve affordable housing along the city’s public transportation lines. 

The $15 million Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Fund was launched in collaboration with Michigan-based Cinnaire, a community development financial institution with offices in Indianapolis, which will manage the fund. 

INHP will be the fund’s sole borrower and will acquire existing buildings or vacant or underused properties, with the goal of maintaining or developing mixed-use, mixed-income housing.

The ultimate objective of the fund is to preserve or spur development of 1,000 affordable housing units within close distance of an Indianapolis transit stop over the next five years. The units would be leased to eligible tenants.

“We believe everyone should have equal opportunity to live in a neighborhood with easy access to employment, health care, child care, education, food and support services,” said INHP president and CEO Moira Carlstedt.

John Marron, director of strategic planning for IndyGo, said the fund would help “ensure housing costs remain affordable in locations with easy access to transit” as the IndyGo bus service undergoes an expansion in Indianapolis with an increase in service and creation of three bus rapid transit lines. 

The fund is composed of $12 million in lending capital from First Merchants Bank, National Bank of Indianapolis, Lake City Bank and First Financial Bank. It also has $3 million in equity funding: $1.5 million from the INHP, $1 million from the city of Indianapolis and a $500,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. The fund already has $5 million in lines of credit contributed by banks; and the rest is in various stages of closing, according to INHP.

The idea of the fund is to give the INHP access to more low-interest financing to complete more projects. 

Rick Laber, Cinnaire’s executive Vice President for new ventures, said he is encouraged by the initial interest from banks to participate in the fund. 

“This couldn’t happen without the bankers having a heart for the mission of what we’re talking about,” Laber said. “This needed to be low-cost, patient capital. The banks have stepped up with low-cost, patient capital.”

The city of Indianapolis’ contribution comes from Department of Metropolitan Development funds, according to a city spokesperson.

“Today is a fantastic day for the city of Indianapolis,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said. “This tremendous partnership will make our city a more equitable city, a more thriving city, and … one that is a prime example of a public drive partnership done well.”

So far, INHP has acquired two properties using the fund, 401 Southern Avenue near Garfield Park, and 2163 N. Illinois St., which is north of downtown. Both stops are close to future IndyGo Red Line stops.

“We’ll see activity on these parcels hopefully soon,” said Carlstedt.

The initiative comes as the result of an idea INHP heard during the community visioning process called Plan 2020 from Indianapolis resident Gary Reiter, who thought the city had a problem with a lack of affordable housing, especially around transit routes.

INHP then conducted studies that showed his hunch was correct. It also found that transit and housing costs were eating up an average of 46 percent of Indianapolis residents’ income.

“The vision he had was to combine the ever-growing transit system with the problem he saw as a shortage of affordable housing,” said Joe Hanson, INHP’s executive vice president for capital development and strategic initiatives. “This tool is intended to address both of those challenges. It addresses the lack of supply of safe, decent affordable housing but more importantly, aligns that with high-quality, frequent, reliable transit. It’s about creating those opportunities for inclusive economic mobility.”

Carlstedt said the fund was also made possible because of a $26.6 million grant in 2015 from the Lilly Endowment to INHP, which helped fund INHP’s contribution.

“They said to the board and staff, ‘Seize opportunities, be innovative and do more of what you do well,’” Carlstedt said. “The equitable transit fund is an example of seizing opportunity and being innovative.”

Council OKs putting mass-transit tax hike on November ballot

IBJ.com
May 9, 2016
Hayleigh Colombo

Marion County voters will have another choice to make in November’s election—whether to approve an income-tax increase to pay for expanded mass-transit service.

The measure to put the question on November’s ballot was approved 18-6 Monday night by the full City-County Council. The measure first passed the council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee on April 26.

If the November referendum passes, Marion County could levy a income-tax increase of 0.25 on residents. That would be 25 cents for every $100 of income to pay for increased public transit.

“This is about a system that will not improve if we don’t find a way to fund it,” said Republican Councilman Jeff Miller. “I trust the voters come November will look at the impact to them and make a personal decision.”

Democrat Zach Adamson said he has been “waiting five years” to cast a vote to put the referendum on the ballot.

The tax increase would help fund the IndyGo Marion County Transit Plan, which includes extended service hours, shorter wait times, and the creation of three rapid-transit bus lines.

One big part of the transit plan is the Red Line, a rapid-transit bus line that could eventually run from Westfield to Greenwood at a projected cost of $170 million to $200 million.

In Marion County, the first 13-mile phase, which would run from 66th Street in Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis, is expected to cost $96 million to build and another $6 million annually to operate. Construction is expected to start in spring 2017, with routes open for service in fall 2018.

The Marion County portion of the Red Line is expected to receive $75 million from a federal grant, which would cover most of its construction costs. The annual operating funds would be covered by the tax levy.

If the referendum doesn’t pass in November, the first phase of the Red Line would still move forward. There also will be more “real-time” transit information available, such as the arrival times of buses.

But “improvements to hours, service, connections, and wait times will be more difficult to make,” according to IndyGo’s website.

Some opposition to the Red Line has surfaced in recent months, with a petition garnering about 430 signatures saying that the first phase’s construction will “slow traffic, hurt existing businesses and forever alter the character of historic neighborhoods such as Arden, Broad Ripple and Meridian-Kessler.” However, a petition in support of the line has 1,385 signatures.

Not everybody at the meeting was in favor of the proposal.

“Somebody’s got to speak for the voices of people who can’t afford a tax increase,” said Democrat Joe Simpson.

But several council members said they have received “about half and half” of feedback for and against the proposal, so voters should decide.

Councilman William Oliver said he supports putting the question on the ballot because “I’m not saying what they should do; I’m giving them the opportunity to (vote).”

“I’m going to challenge those here and those watching to get involved and take a position and seek out those answers,” Oliver said.

The Indy Chamber released a statement in support of the vote, with President Michael Huber saying the council is giving voters “a voice on mass transit and an opportunity to make us a more convenient, connected city.”

Tim Maloney, senior policy director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, called the plan “ambitious yet practical and realistic.”

“If you make transit a meaningful choice for people, a lot of people will choose to take the bus instead of driving,” Maloney said. “That means cars off the road, reduced vehicle emissions; it’s a positive for the community, but you have to make it work well.”

Indy council sends transit tax hike to voters

The City-County Council on Monday night agreed to give Marion County voters the chance to raise their income taxes to pay for a major investment in public transportation: a dramatic expansion of the city bus service, including a bus rapid transit system.

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