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IndyGo: Putting Down Routes

The IndyGo bus system’s long-awaited Red Line makes its maiden voyage on September 1. It could connect the city as never before—but can Indianapolis overcome its car culture and get on board?

Bus Basics: The Red Line is a 13-mile corridor for electric buses in dedicated lanes to rush passengers from Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis. A one-way trip should take 45 minutes—shorter than the current 65-minute bus ride between those two points, about the same as the trip in a car, and probably faster than a car during rush hour.

Oh, and it’s free for a month. You can try out the Red Line gratis during September.

Yes, construction was chaotic. And has dragged on since last June. But road rage along the Red Line route is hopefully now a thing of the past, and there’s much more than a bus lane to show for it. Improvements include better bike lanes and updated traffic signals, along with upgrades to sidewalks, curbs, drainage, and landscaping.

There are a whole lot of seats to be filled if this is going to work. IndyGo anticipates a total of 11,000 trips per day on the Red Line. The former routes it’s absorbing were seeing only about 6,000 trips per day—so about twice as many of us need to ride the bus in order to meet the new expectations.

Imagine a new bus for a new era. If you’ve never climbed onto a city bus, IndyGo hopes you’ll rethink your expectations. Red Line buses are outfitted with free Wi-Fi and USB charging stations, making it easy to catch up on email and the day’s news before you even get to the office, or just play with your phone instead of staring at the car in front of you for an hour. Plus, when you get wherever it is you’re going, you won’t have to hassle with parking.

And the bus is coming soon. You don’t even need a paper schedule—routes are scheduled for every 10 minutes.

In the meantime, wait in relative comfort. Covered platforms include seating, a ticketing kiosk (or use the MyKey app), real-time arrival screens, security cameras, and an emergency call box. For the first week of September, Red Line reps will be at all 28 platforms to help with ticketing and answer questions.

Let’s pat ourselves on the back for going green: All-electric means zero emissions. The new buses trade diesel consumption for solar panels. IndyGo plans to convert its entire fleet to electric over the next 15 years.

Two transit workers smile while standing against a wall.

For the first week of September, Red Line representatives will be at all 28 platforms to help with ticketing and answer your questions.Courtesy IndyGo

Its success will be measured in many ways. Especially by connecting people to jobs, healthcare, and education. The route runs through some of the most populated (often lower-income) areas, linking them to downtown, hospitals, and higher learning—UIndy and Ivy Tech are directly en route.

Opening week will be entertaining. Music In Transit will sponsor live performances at Red Line platforms from September 2 to 7, a collaboration between Mike Angel, owner of Square Cat Vinyl in Fountain Square; the Arts Council of Indianapolis; and IndyGo.

Underserved neighborhoods might thrive again. Joshua Gonzales, owner of Thunderbird bar, decided to open his latest, Jailbird, in the University Heights area. To him, being a block away from the last stop south on the Red Line is a huge bonus.

We are a world-class city, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is moving us forward. IndyGo is already planning the Washington Street Blue Line and the Purple Line along East 38th Street, and wants to eventually extend the Red Line north to Carmel and south to Greenwood. So look for traffic headaches there in the near future—but hey, it’s all in the name of progress.

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