Gov. Pence signed the central Indiana mass transit bill this week. The issue now goes to the taxpayers in six counties for approval. A referendum will be held to determine if taxpayers will volunteer for increase income taxes to fund the system. A proposal for a light rail system (which are notoriously underused and incredibly expensive) was removed from the bill.
If voters do approve, it would be a huge waste of money. Traditionally, all mass transit comes up short of supporting itself and always demands increases in funding. Simply put, not only will it allow a tax increase to fund the proposition, but will likely result in ever-growing requests for funding in the future. Taxpayers would be wise to vote against the idea when it shows up on the ballot.
Like it or not, America is extremely devoted to their cars. Mass transit might make some trips cheaper, but it doesn’t always make sense to ride the bus, nor does it seem that it is any more environmentally friendly. Cars are more convenient and more economical for longer trip commutes.
Indianapolis already has IndyGo for people commuting within the city. When you boil this bill down, it is about people in the surrounding counties being able to get from the suburbs to the city. When viewed like that, an increase in taxes for something that will probably cost more (via taxes and rates or rates alone) does not hold water as a sound idea. The ridership will probably be lacking, as most people who live in surrounding communities, work in those surrounding communities. And for those who don’t, probably will drive into the city regardless.
Since central Indiana counties have flat tax rates, this will be a situation where the needs of a few, are subsidizing the rest. If you were to live in Carmel, and work in Carmel, why would you want to increase your own taxes for the benefit of those who wish to commute into Indianapolis. Yes, you might like to take the bus into town once a month on the weekends, but will that make up for the cost you will pay in increase income taxes, likely not.
Overall this just seems to strike as a bad idea for central Indiana residents. Hopefully taxpayers will put this issue to rest once it is on the ballot. However, knowing how many people tend to vote, don’t hold your breath. If there truly is a demand for this, can’t we propose a free market solution that will work out better for all that are involved?
Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole posted a good article on this subject back in 2013 and it still bears for a good read today.