As public officials attempt to strengthen our local transit system with a $35 million budget projected in 2023, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is eager to see transit services extended beyond the Bloomington city limits. This long-awaited upgrade can begin with the immediate expansion of Route 3 by 1.3 miles to reach Ivy Tech Community College and the numerous Park 48 employers.
Recently, the city council passed Resolution 22-16, which endorses the extension of transit service beyond the city boundaries but stops short of formally approving the changes. The current municipal code states that the boundaries of Bloomington Transit (BT) must be “coterminous” with the city’s boundaries. While the resolution does not amend the current municipal code, it does open the possibility of service to unincorporated areas in the future.
The Chamber has consistently been a strong advocate for expanded transit service. This is a necessary measure to make the community’s public 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 entire community. In fact, the Chamber recently endorsed a portion of Mayor John Hamilton’s Local Income Tax proposal that would fund enhanced transit services.
To achieve these service improvements, the BT Board must vote to extend Route 3 west by a mere 1.3 miles. Our goal is for enhanced transit services to begin by the start of the Ivy Tech Spring 2023 semester to better serve the many students who take classes both at Ivy Tech and Indiana University. Many of these students struggle to find transportation options between campuses. At a roughly $100,000 marginal incremental cost per year, this is not a risky nor pricey investment in our community. Another significant benefit would come to area workers who will 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 that was 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 is years away from implementation. In a counter to this measure, the BT staff has expressed concern about an ad-hoc approach to route expansion. BT contends that the community should wait even longer for its strategic plan to be completed. While the Chamber understands these concerns, we strongly believe enhanced transit services to Park 48 presents unique economic development opportunities for our community and is deserving of a more expeditious plan for implementation. In fact, consultants for BT’s route optimization plan recommended extension of service to Ivy Tech and other nearby employers over three years ago.
As local officials consider how to make the most of our public transit system, let’s keep our sights on the many community-wide benefits that would be achieved from a much-needed expansion of transit services. This expansion would be a game changer for residents of Bloomington and Monroe County. These enhancements would provide our students and workforce with better, more affordable transportation options to high quality education and employment opportunities in our community. These are worthy goals that we that we should all embrace.
Eric Spoonmore is president and CEO of Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Chamber: Expansion of transit services needed in Bloomington