The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

February 17, 2013

Jesse Wilkerson: Mass transit would be good for county

Imagine, if you will, boarding a commuter shuttle from downtown Anderson straight to the airport in Indianapolis or Fort Wayne or Sunday's shuttle straight to Lucas Oil Stadium.  When I lived in Washington D.C. during my college years one of the things I enjoyed most was the transit system. During my years at Howard University I was able to walk a few blocks from my apartment and hop the Metro'to Maryland to visit family on the weekend or simply get around town. I used to ride the metro to Virginia to work at the Pentagon City mall, for various class assignments within the metro Washington DC area, and with friends to events and dinner from time to time.

Last week I was excited to hear the news of Indiana's House Ways and Means Committee's vote in Favor of Central Indiana Mass Transit Plan. Some people may not understand the opportunity that this development can potentially have on central Indiana. Being connected is a vital part of community.  There is always a debate over where to spend public dollars. Without question mass transit opens up another world of commerce for communities that have something to offer.

There are cities that have capitalized on mass transit around the country.  Though we are not these cities it is refreshing to see someone thinking ahead of the curve instead of waiting until we need something to then begin to plan for it. City planners have come up with a financial plan that works, in theory, and with some fine tuning could become a reality (http://www.indystar.com/article/20130210/OPINION08/302090307/Editorial-Can-we-afford-mass-transit-Planners-conservative-budget).

This doesn’t necessarily put Madison County on the map in any way. It just increases the potential to tie into something that would make travel much more effective, efficient, and much more common. We love our cars. Ten years ago it was hard to imagine Hoosiers in central Indiana considering riding a monorail, metro, train, or anything else they didn't drive. New Yorkers live without cars and think nothing of it. With the recent rash of increases at the pump and the market's inability to keep up with creating a more cost prohibitive mode of individual transportation I believe the idea of mass transit is going to stick.

When mass transit is done properly it opens the doors for transportation for the elderly, professionals (both young and old), and the disabled. It also has a potential to impact our local colleges and universities. In developing strong communities I can't imagine a successful city that won't offer some sort of efficient mass transit. The question will always be how to support it. The more that it is perceived as a need the higher of a priority it will become.

Would you ride mass transit if it was available now?

Jesse J. Wilkerson is the principal of the local architecture firm Jesse J. Wilkerson & Associates. His column appears every other Monday on the Business page.

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