Expansion of transit services needed in Bloomington
As public authorities attempt to bolster our local transit system with a budget of $35 million expected in 2023, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is eager to see transit services expanded beyond bounds. of the city of Bloomington. This long-awaited upgrade can begin with the immediate expansion of Route 3 by 1.3 miles to reach Ivy Tech Community College and Park 48’s many employers.
Recently, City Council passed Resolution 22-16, which approves the extension of transit service beyond city limits, but stops short of formally approving the changes. The current municipal code states that the boundaries of Bloomington Transit (BT) must coincide with the city limits. Although the resolution does not change the current municipal code, it opens the possibility of serving unincorporated areas in the future.
The Chamber has always been a strong supporter of expanded transit service. This is a necessary step to make the community’s transit system even better for residents, including employers and people who work in the more urbanized areas of Monroe County. We need a transit system that reflects the needs of the whole community. In fact, the House recently approved part of Mayor John Hamilton’s local income tax proposal that would fund improved transit services.
To achieve these service improvements, BT’s board must vote to extend Route 3 West by just 1.3 miles. Our goal is for enhanced transit services to begin at the start of the Ivy Tech Spring 2023 semester to better serve the many students taking classes at both Ivy Tech and Indiana University. Many of these students struggle to find transportation options between campuses. At a marginal incremental cost of about $100,000 per year, this is not a risky or expensive investment in our community. Another significant benefit would come to workers in the region who would have more affordable options for transportation to and from their jobs.
The Chamber is also eager to see a new East-West Express transit line recently proposed by the Hamilton administration. However, with a price tag of $2.1 million, this is a longer-term goal, requiring multiple studies and years away from implementation. In opposition to this measure, BT staff expressed concern about an ad hoc approach to route expansion. BT argues that the community should wait even longer for its strategic plan to be completed. While the Chamber understands these concerns, we strongly believe that improved transit services to Park 48 present unique economic development opportunities for our community and deserve a faster implementation plan. In fact, BT’s route optimization plan consultants recommended extending the service to Ivy Tech and other nearby employers more than three years ago.
As local authorities consider how to get the most out of our public transport system, let’s keep in mind the many community-wide benefits that would come from a much-needed expansion of public transport services. . This expansion would be a game-changer for residents of Bloomington and Monroe County. These improvements would provide our students and workforce with better and more affordable transportation options to high-quality education and employment opportunities in our community. These are laudable goals that we should all embrace.
Eric Spoonmore is President and CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.