Disappointed with council vote, mass transit advocates make their case

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After the Carmel City Council voted down $196,000 in money for a “red line” mass transit system, some people – including Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard – are hoping the council will reconsider.

“I would hope that we can get it worked out and find a way to approve this money,” Brainard said.

The Red Line would be a mass transit system that would travel from Westfield to Greenwood and be managed by IndyGo. A $2 million federal TIGER grant is available but matching funds need to be available. The council voted 1-5 against an inter-local agreement that would have Carmel chip in for its share of the environmental and engineering costs, the very early stages of setting up the Red Line.

Mo Merhoff, president of OneZone, which is the recent merger of the Carmel and Fishers chambers of commerce, penned a letter in Current in Carmel to advocate for mass transit as an economic boost to the region.

Recently, Carmel agreed through a city council vote to team up with Indianapolis, Westfield and Greenwood to create a regional economic development group as a way to lobby for millions in state grants and federal funds, with mass transit as one of the main issues.

According to a study, that the annual operating cost of a public transit bus system would be anywhere from $10 million to $25 million. A preliminary proposal assumes that Hamilton and Marion County voters will approve a referendum in November 2016 that would fund mass transit through a tax imposed which could be anywhere from $82 to $206 a year.

The Red Line, which could cost $100 million, would be part of an overall $1.2 billion regional effort called IndyConnect.

Some members of the Carmel City Council, such as councilor Ron Carter, expressed concerns about how much representation Carmel would have on a regional board for mass transit. Brainard said that shouldn’t be a concern and that Hamilton County will have the appropriate number of votes on the board. In addition, he said it’s important to work together.

“We are not an island,” Brainard said. “We have to work together as a region.”

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