Column: Residents deserve the right to choose on mass transit
Commentary by Mo Merhoff
Indiana representative Earl Landgrebe’s legacy was defined by his Watergate-era retort – “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I have a closed mind.”
So, while we recognize the challenges of opening a dialogue on the transit issue with those who’ve already made a decision (Referendum on Transit is Coming, June 14’s From the Backshop), we’d like to clarify some misinformation included in the editorial.
•The referendum is not before Hamilton County as you stated and is not on anybody’s ballot until and unless the Clay and Washington Township Boards vote to do so on June 28. If they do, then only residents of Clay and Westfield townships will be voting on Nov. 8.
•You dismiss IndyGo and Amtrak as “disasters” because they don’t turn a profit. It’s true, they don’t. Neither does any mass transit system most anywhere in the world. But neither do roads. When’s the last time 465 made money? How about the road in front of your office? So, should we stop investing tax dollars in infrastructure and road maintenance? Hardly. Investment in infrastructure – and transit – is an investment in the future of our economic strength, and our ability to not only attract the best and brightest to our communities, but retain them. Our economic development competition – those regions nationwide attracting business investment – are also developing or enhancing their mass transit opportunities.
•Our region ranks 33rd in population of the top 100 regions in the country. But we’re 86th in transit investment. This change would only move us to 65th.
•The argument that mass transit creates “possible threats to personal safety” is both disappointing to hear in our increasingly-diverse community and unsubstantiated by facts. This was an argument advanced not so long ago by those against the Monon Trail, who now realize nearness to the trail is a real estate selling point. Communities with mass transit see declines in crime, not increases. And surely, in 2016 we’ve long since put aside the notion that we wouldn’t want any of those people we don’t know enjoying our restaurants and performances and increasingly vibrant night life.
•Of course public transit can experience malfunctioning equipment. So can cars, and trains and airplanes. Ask the public whether they’d rather be stuck behind the wheel in a traffic jam, or working on their laptop, or reading the news.
•OneZone voted to both support the transit referendum’s being on the ballot and a yes vote on its passage for two reasons: one, it’s a positive and essential part of our future economic development, and two, it’s crucial to deliver employees to the growing number of companies with open job opportunities they can’t fill.
•Finally, we’d take issue with your assumption that government’s asking for money is “disgusting” whenever it occurs. Business and residential tax dollars support our highly-enviable school system, our exceptional library, our phenomenal arts opportunities, and our award-winning parks system. And all those roads too. It’s what’s attracted businesses to our community, and what makes them stay. Were we to ask those companies if they’d prefer to lower their taxes and eliminate the things that attracted them here in the first place, what would you guess they’d say? That’s what a referendum on transit would do – give us the right to choose. We agree on one thing: do go to www.indyconnect.org and learn more.
Mo Merhoff is president of OneZone.