The Hoosierist: How Bad is Indy's Traffic?

Gridlock, floods, and mayoral security details. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: I hear more and more people complain about “traffic congestion” in Indianapolis. How bad is ours compared to other cities?
A: The Hoosierist, who has been trapped in both New York City and Los Angeles road snarls, thinks it’s cute when Indy residents complain about needing an extra 10 minutes to get from downtown to Fishers during the evening “rush.” The Global Traffic Congestion Index, compiled by the navigation and mapping company TomTom, shows just how easy we have it. Of the 174 major cities on its congestion list, Indy comes in 171st. In Mexico City, the world’s worst, the average trip takes 59 percent longer than it would if the streets were empty, and twice as long during rush hours. In Indianapolis, however, traffic typically stretches a trip by only 10 percent—a number that has dropped 3 percent over the last year. Chronic congestion? More like a mild case of the sniffles.
Q: In the early 1900s, Indy faced huge, damaging floods. Is the city still vulnerable to that?
A: Let’s just say the people in Rocky Ripple aren’t the only ones who might want to pay attention to those TV flood insurance commercials. On the bright side, we haven’t faced a big flood since 1913, when a spring deluge submerged much of the city. The bad news is that, in spite of a century of flood control efforts, it could happen again. “The levees we’ve built were done with 1913 in mind, so there’s increased protection from them,” says Dave Knipe, engineering section manager for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “But if something like that happened today, you’d certainly have a lot of damage.” Mostly because Indy is far larger, which means there’s more stuff for all that water to ruin.
Q: Does our mayor have a security detail? I never see one around him.
A: Though Mayor Joe Hogsett isn’t constantly surrounded by a posse of dudes in black sunglasses like the president (or Dr. Dre), you’ll sometimes find him accompanied by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer specially trained to protect dignitaries. Not that Hogsett is the easiest person to protect—or even keep tabs on. “He is notorious for not using the officers as often as they would like,” says the mayor’s communications director, Taylor Schaffer. For instance, Hogsett is in the habit of going out alone for runs at odd hours in downtown neighborhoods. “At one event, a woman told the officer with the mayor that she doesn’t usually see him with a detail,” Schaffer says. “She thought it was cool that he was out in the streets at all hours by himself. I thought the officer’s head was going to explode.”
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