Ask The Hoosierist: Up To Speed

Red Line efficiency, al fresco dining, and historic preservation in Fountain Square. Ask the Hoosierist.

Q: How long will it take to get from one end of IndyGo’s new Red Line to the other? Will it be faster than traveling by car?
A: The soon-to-debut Red Line (currently famous for the traffic jams created by construction along its route) is a 13-mile corridor that will use electric buses running in dedicated lanes to speed passengers from Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis. Planners think a one-way trip will take about 45 minutes—a vast improvement over the current bus route, which requires riding a diesel-fueled stinker downtown, then transferring to another bus to UIndy, taking roughly 65 minutes. As for cars, Google Maps says you can get from Broad Ripple to UIndy in 30 minutes by interstate. If you drive the actual Red Line route, you’re looking at 45 minutes—exactly the same as the Red Line. But both those figures are for midday, low-traffic times. Try this during rush hour, and the Red Line will probably beat a car handily.

Q: Are there rules about which restaurants can offer al fresco dining, or can pretty much anyone throw some tables on the sidewalk?
A: If you’re a restaurateur in a strip center and you want to spill into the parking lot, that’s between you and your landlord. But if you want to set up tables on a sidewalk, you need to call the city’s Department of Business & Neighborhood Services. Their review process includes a ton of stuff, such as making sure outdoor areas conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also require some sort of low wall or fence between the dining area and passersby. Oh, and it’s totally illegal for patrons to roll up in their cars, place an order, then wait by the dining area while they (one assumes) rev the engine of their souped-up Plymouth and check their pompadour in the rearview mirror. In the eyes of city planners, al fresco dining and curb service are two different things with two different permits.

Q: Fountain Square seems to be full of modern houses lately. Are there historic-preservation rules, or can you just knock down a place there and start from scratch?
A: The Hoosierist has also noted the regular bulldozing of early–20th century bungalows to make way for shoebox-shaped tributes to modernity. It’s legal, because while the commercial portion of Fountain Square is protected by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (which won’t allow so much as a new awning without a design review), the residential areas aren’t. “The way the local historic-preservation designation works, it’s usually a grassroots effort,” says Emily Mack, director of the Department of Metropolitan Development. “In this case, Fountain Square has never sought those protections.”

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