Mass transit advocates push to increase state funding

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The debate over expanding mass transit hit the statehouse Tuesday as part of Transit Day.

The state currently spends $44 million on mass transit. Advocates want that funding to be increased to $60 million.

Advocates met with lawmakers to discuss funding options.

There are four pieces of legislation being debated on mass transit.

That includes House Bill 1001 which would increase the Public Mass Transit Fund to $60 million.

That money would be divided among the 64 mass transit systems in the state.

The reason why this bill is so critical is because it’s the state budget.

Despite the improvements that could be made to mass transit with increased funding, advocates aknowledge they’re in an uphill battle.

“It’s not going to be easy, I would say that it’s going to be a tough sell to Hoosiers,” said Mayor Andy Cook of Westfield. “We don’t really like mass transit because it sounds like NJ. We like to drive our cars.

Advocates say current systems aren’t granting enough access.

“When we continue to not invest in it at the level that’s needed and at a level that has not kept pace with demand we’re short changing not just individual people, but our communities as whole,” said Kim Irwin of Indiana Citizens’ Alliance for Transit.

INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness met with the advocates, but appeared to be more committed to finding a way to fund the state’s roads.

“We have to plan for 20 years down the road, many of these bridges for example, we have 5600 bridges that INDOT is responsible for and about 45 percent of those bridges right now are about 50 years of life,” he said.

Only one mass transit related bill made it out of committee. Senate Bill 85 would allow redevelopment or TIF districts to provide funding for public and school transportation.

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