There hasn’t been a lot of “big ideas” for Indianapolis in a while from the Council or Council candidates. Some of the biggest ideas, for better or worse, have come from IndyGo and some of the nuttiest ideas have come from Jim Merritt, who thinks people will pay a toll on Binford Blvd. and not magically divert to Keystone or some other throughway.
I think it’s time to change that. I have three big ideas that are all within the reach and scope of the Council and the City to implement, and implement quickly.
Usually, when people talk about some grand idea the next question is, “Well, how are we going to pay for that?” And usually there is no good way. But these ideas could save some money, and make things better.
Matching grants for road paving
Big idea number one: let private neighborhoods, HOAs, and collections of neighbors band together to help pay for road costs around their homes. This is ideal for thousands of homes with small alleys, one-way streets, dead ends, and other small residential streets. If a stretch costs $900 to repair and homeowners come up with half, the City can pay the other half.
It’ll double how far each dollar goes in our road budget. It can also be applied to sidewalks. It might even bring neighbors together in creative new ways. Some neighborhoods, for instance, might decide some alleys are better off as gravel instead of paved.
We can argue the City should just cover all this, but it’s clear we’re in too big of a hole to do anything fast. This helps us move quickly and, yes, grants more affluent neighborhoods an opportunity to get roads fixed. But it also puts more burden on them to pay for it. For households with little to no income to put toward such a match, the fact we’re raising new revenue at all from those that can means more existing public dollars for those that can’t.
2-way conversion of Michigan and New York
Specifically for my district, Michigan and New York streets should be converted back to two-way directional traffic. Will that make some car travel slower? You bet. And that’s good for the people who live along the stretch of New York and Michigan where people do 40 MPH at a minimum most of the time. Even during rush hour cars are moving too fast. If you’ve been in a car, you’ve likely been moving too fast to notice all the kids in homes along there who can’t venture far off the front porch for fear of being hit.
Two-way conversions aren’t new. The streets used to be that way, and the cost is mostly in paint and hanging up some traffic signals for “the other side”. We’ve already done this at IUPUI to cut down on pedestrian fatalities there. It’s made the campus better for it. Just as much traffic flows in and out, no one’s died, and no emergency vehicles have been hung up. It works great, and we should do it for the east side.
While canvassing one day I spoke to someone who owns a home on New York Street. It’s been in her family since before the RCA Plant closed. And the house was built at a time the street was two-way and quieter. Then we made it one-way, increased the speeds, and increased the noise. How is that not theft of her property value? How is that not theft of her ability to live on a street that’s calm? We changed the deal out from under her, and like some good development that could happen, we made it worse. Let’s fix it.
Double down on urbanism
My third idea builds off this: Indianapolis should double-down on urbanism. The recent letter in the Star about distressed housing really irks me. Some of these neighborhoods get the way they are, in part, by people who don’t live here, never have, or gave up on it when things got a little tough. For their opinions, bluntly:
I don’t give a shit.
I don’t care about people who live outside of Indianapolis and want to do this or that to this neighborhood or that attraction. I really don’t. Kokomo doesn’t sit around fretting about what policy will or won’t make Indianapolis residents happy. Louisville doesn’t wring their hands over whether some decision will make people who live in Clarksville happy.
I care about Indianapolis and specifically my neighborhood. If people want to visit and shop and dine in our restaurants, great. But I am not interested in standing around and saying “Well, we have to make New York Street fast fast fast in case someone wants to get to 465.”
I don’t care to sit around and think, “Well, we have to make sure people from Carmel can get Downtown quickly to their jobs.” I don’t care. You want to be close to your job, you live close to your job.
Do you know what employers want? Top-of-their-game talent. They need people. Do you know what brings people to an area? A city. A real, bonafide city where you can walk around and see a park and a friend and pet a dog on the wide, spacious sidewalks. There’s a reason Salesforce Tower is where it is and not in Fishers. Cities have stadiums and conventions and big parties and fireworks shows. Cities are where the Rolling Stones play and airports connect you to the rest of the world. Cities have top research institutions and medical facilities.
We spend too much time treating too much of Indianapolis, including the old, urban core of Indianapolis, like a suburb. Let the suburbs be the suburbs. You want to drive everywhere, have 4 acres between you and your neighbor, and live on a cul-de-sac, they’ve got ‘em. And they have a great lifestyle for a lot of people who want that.
But if you want to live somewhere where you can get to most of what you need in a 15-minute walk or bike ride, and where you bump into people you know, that’s a city. If you want to see grand architecture and art museums, that’s a city. If you want options in having a small house or a big house or an apartment or a tower, that’s a city.
Indianapolis should double-down on policies and ideas that promote the idea that this is the place where talent rises, people and ideas come together, and wealth is created and stays.