April 22, 2014

THEIR VIEW: Let voters weigh option of easing daily commute


---- — There was a time in this country when workers typically lived less than an hour’s walk from their jobs. A time when a “commuter” was simply a traveler taking advantage of a reduced railway fare on his way to the big city. A time when the American suburb didn’t exist.

How times have changed.

The evolution of “commuting” has had a major impact on modern life. The willingness of workers to travel from outlying areas to jobs in the city via train, subway or bus has allowed major cities to expand unchecked through the proliferation of suburbs. And in areas where public transit isn’t available, millions of workers don’t think twice about taking to the road to spend hours on congested highways every morning and evening.

We’re not immune from the commute condition. On a typical workday here in central Indiana, more than 24,000 people are driving either to Madison County or away from the county to go to work. Figures recently released by STATSIndiana show that 16,614 county residents commute to another county or state for employment, while 8,078 people drive into the county for work each day.

But what if there was a way to get to those jobs other than hopping in your car every day?

Another recent story in The Herald Bulletin detailed a survey by the Madison County Council of Governments that found that 32 percent of Madison County residents who travel to Indianapolis on a regular basis are interested in mass transit, including bus and rail service.

Given those survey results and the county’s commuting numbers, it appears there might indeed be a need for and interest in a mass transit system in central Indiana. A bill that Gov. Mike Pence recently signed into law — allowing six counties, including Madison, to set up a mass transit system if voters in the county approve — could make it a reality.

But there’s a lot to consider before moving ahead on easing the commute. First, the bill does not allow for a light rail option, meaning commuters would be taking an express bus. Second, officials will have to weigh the cost, time of travel and number of potential riders in determining if it’s even feasible. And finally, the county’s residents will have to decide how much they are willing to pay for it.

There’s a lot of questions left to answer. But giving voters the option of a mass transit system would be an important step in making the daily grind a little less hectic for Madison County and other Indiana workers.

— (Anderson) Herald Bulletin

THE ISSUE Commuting to work has congested roads. THEIR VIEW Possible mass transit system in central Indiana needs studied, voted on.