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Public Transit: A real need for Indiana

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While the Indiana General Assembly is busy discriminating against same-sex couples, there are real issues. There are real problems in the state.

One of the many problems is transportation. Here in Indianapolis we are ultra-reliant on cars. And public transportation is almost nonexistent in comparison.

I looked at some numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey from 2005-2009 that highlight some of the issues. Here's what jumped out at me.

Commuters mostly drove. Almost every worker drove to work (92.5 percent) and most drove alone (83.4 percent). That's a lot of mostly empty cars.

Fewer people took public transportation than worked at home. In Indianapolis the way commuters took cars off the road was by working at home (3.6 percent), while an even a smaller minority took public transportation (1.0 percent), walked (1.7 percent), or biked (0.2 percent) to work.

There is a population of workers without access to a vehicle. About 15,500 workers (or 1.9 percent of workers) don't have access to a car in this car-centric city. And only 20.4 percent have access to one vehicle. Everyone else has access to a bunch of vehicles. There are two vehicles available to 46.4 percent of workers. And a whopping 31.3 percent have access to 3 or more vehicles. That's more than the people who have access to 0-1 vehicles combined!

Transportation is a major civil rights issue. To get to work, 84.2 percent of whites drove to work alone, while only 11.3 percent of African-Americans drove alone. When it came to public transportation use it's the opposite, with more African-Americans riding public transportation (56.5 percent) than whites (38.1 percent).

With poor public transportation and a city that's designed around the car, currently not everyone can get around the city equally. Whites can easily navigate the city while African-Americans, who use public transportation more than anyone, don't have reliable transportation. The average wait for an IndyGo bus is 30-60 minutes. And on top of that, 66 percent of public transportation users make less than $25,000 and 80 percent make less than 35,000. This is a major issue the city needs to address.

Below are graphs comparing the Indianapolis metro area to the metro areas of Chicago, New York City, Portland, Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio.

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New York City has 20 percent fewer people that drive to work alone than the next closest city and about 30 percent fewer people than Indy. Let's see why...

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Because New York City has reliable public transportation, that people want to use, they don't drive as much. Fifteen percent more people use it than in the next closest city, and 30 percent more use it than Indy. And because of the availability of public transportation (along with dense, multi-use neighborhoods) this happens...

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Poof! Cars are gone. People don't want to bother with the headache and just plain don't need them, which drastically reduces emissions caused by people driving alone in their cars.

By implementing reliable public transportation and passing legislation like Complete Streets, we can not only help the environment, but become a more just society.

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