Last November Indianapolis residents voted for more than presidential and congressional seats; they also voted for the nation’s first income tax investment for public transit. Referred to as Question Two, residents overwhelmingly supported the referendum which paves the way for the development of the Marion County Transit Plan and improves the county’s IndyGo bus service. The increased income tax will be up to 25 cents per $100 of taxable income for all Marion County residents. The tax increase will help by extending IndyGo’s hours of operation, increasing the number of bus routes that run in 15-minute frequencies, running every route seven days a week, and creating three rapid-transit lines which run more often and make fewer stops. A City-County Council vote will make this a reality.
Although it may not sound like much, these advancements will greatly improve the economy, livability, and overall well-being of Marion County neighborhoods and its residents. By 2021, the plan will increase the population of residents within a five-minute walk to a high frequency bus route by 180 percent, or by over 160,000 individuals. Additionally, 200,000 residents will live within a half-mile of the three new rapid transit lines that will expedite travel to and from heavily-populated neighborhoods, employment centers, and the city’s major institutions. The connection to employment centers should not be underestimated; Transit Drives Indy claims over 500,000 new jobs will be accessible to Marion County residents. Combine increased access with a 70 percent total increase in service hours, allows commuters to access places of employment throughout the week, including evenings and weekends. Currently, employment opportunities available to asset poor individuals are limited without ownership of or access to a vehicle. However, increased transportation access puts individuals who are unable to afford a vehicle in a better position to secure a steady job necessary to build upon their assets. Furthermore, according to Transportation for America, those who are unable to drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer shopping trips and restaurant visits, and 65 percent fewer trips for social, family, and religious activities, therefore limiting the economic and social capital available to a community. Unfortunately, this lack of access disproportionately affects people of color, 12 percent of whom do not own a vehicle compared with 4.5 percent of Whites.
While voters are often weary of supporting any tax increases, Marion County residents’ overwhelming support for Question Two joins 76 other ballot measures passed around the country this year that support local investment towards public transit. Although this year’s ballot initiatives are the largest in history, it is not a new phenomenon as transit measures have passed at a 71 percent rate since 2000 signifying a firm and growing sentiment among Americans about the importance of maintaining an adequate public transit system. However, as mentioned above, Indianapolis is unique for being the first in the nation to use an income tax in order to invest in its public transit. An income tax is considered a progressive tax and does not disproportionally affect lower-income individuals. This is a significant improvement from traditional methods to fund public transit, such as sales and property taxes as they are considered regressive due to the proportionally higher tax burden placed on lower-income individuals.
To help make the Marion County Transit Plan a reality, please contact your local City-County Councilor and announce your support. To find your Councilor, click this link.