Anderson/Madison County Visitors Blog
I love going. But I hate getting there. And, it keeps happening, no matter where I am or the time of day.
I’m talking about getting in the car to go somewhere fun, only to be stopped for long periods of time by traffic or construction on the interstate. I don’t just mean slow traffic; I’m talking about stopped traffic.
My family has been going to Keystone Arts in Indianapolis for their midnight movies in October. This past Friday we sat stopped on I-69 for over 30 minutes. This was after 11 p.m. when there should have been less traffic. A few weeks ago we went to Terre Haute for Indiana State University’s homecoming weekend. It took us nearly an hour and a half to travel the final seven miles on I-70. This past summer we went to visit my wife’s brother in Nashville, Tennessee. It took an extra two hours to get down there, and an extra three hours to get home.
It is usually the same three culprits that cause the slow down: construction, too much traffic, and accidents. Add it all up and it is becoming a burden to go anywhere. I am blessed to live only five minutes from work. I can’t imagine having to drive on the interstate twice a day, every day, to work and home.
But it is more than an inconvenience. It is potentially very harmful to our economy. Every trip I described above entailed going somewhere for pleasure. Well, people come to Madison County for pleasure too. Last year the day after the Big Ten football championship game in Indianapolis, I had breakfast at Bob Evans in Anderson. At least half of the people dining in the restaurant that day were wearing Michigan State or Ohio State apparel. They were in the area for the game and had spent the night in Anderson. We often get overflow business like that from Indianapolis because we are so conveniently located. But, will we continue to get this business in Madison County if the 45 minute drive from downtown Indy to Anderson regularly begins to take an hour and a half or two hours? Suddenly our location wouldn’t be so convenient anymore.
What about Colts Training Camp? We get thousands of people coming to town for that. I often hear how nice it is that the Colts train so close to home and how convenient it is to get to Anderson. However, if drive times are routinely doubled, fans will be less inclined to come to camp.
A couple of months ago my wife and I went to a concert at the Murat Theater in Indianapolis. Before the concert started I had a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. When he heard we were from Anderson, he said that he and his wife come to a lot of Hoosier Park concerts and make a weekend out of it by spending the night at one of our hotels. He said they love doing it and talked about how many fun things there are to do in Madison County and how convenient it is to get here. But again, what if it stops being convenient, will they still come as often?
We are fortunate to be located in an area that has so much to offer. Muncie and Delaware County are close by. Fort Wayne is just up I-69 from us. Hamilton County is one of our great neighbors. The whole region is important to our economy and quality of life. But, make no mistake; the path that leads to and from Indianapolis is the most important.
So how do we alleviate all of the pressure on these roads that leads to so much stopped traffic and extra travel time? We want to travel to these areas and have their residents travel to us, so encouraging people not to travel isn’t the answer. The roads need to be maintained, so not fixing them isn’t the answer either. So what is the solution?
It is time for Central Indiana to invest in mass transit. Indianapolis and Central Indiana have become a major metropolitan area that plays host to premier sporting events, conferences, and entertainment. But, we are a major league area with a minor league transportation system.
Earlier this year the Indiana State Legislature took the first step to making mass transit a reality. But, it was a baby step. The new law allows Marion County and specific other counties in Central Indiana—including Madison County—to hold referendums in the future regarding funding mass transit in their county. But, the law specifically disallows the use of light rail as part of any plan. That is unfortunate, and hopefully something that can be added in the future. In any event, I applaud the legislature for recognizing the potential need for mass transit and hope the plan will continue to evolve.
I don’t pretend to have the answer on the best way to pay for the system. I don’t pretend to know what the ideal system would like. But I do know there are good models in place throughout the country that we can learn from, that all forms of transportation are already subsidized by the government, and that something needs to be done.
At the earliest, we are probably still at least a couple of years away before any mass transit initiative would even be on the ballot in Madison County. So we still have time to plan, debate, and learn the issues. I encourage you to be a part of the process. Let’s see if we can make our region even better and economically strong with an improved transportation system.
News, notes, and thoughts—Congratulations to Anderson native John Pistole on being selected the next president of Anderson University. Pistole, who is the former deputy director of the FBI and the current head of the TSA is a great hire and will add a great deal to both the University and the community. Pistole is a graduate of AU—then Anderson College—and still has family and many friends in the area. We look forward to having him back home...While speaking of Anderson University, kudos to James Edwards for his long and distinguished service as president. I am happy to call James and his wife Deanna friends. I enjoy being around them immensely and wish them the very best in retirement…Have you found any new TV shows this season that you like? My wife and I are enjoying How to Get Away with Murder and black-ish. In fact, black-ish may be my favorite show on TV right now. It is consistently funny…Once again I get to write about new records being set for our web site, VisitAndersonMadisonCounty.com. We had nearly 8,000 unique visitors in one day during October. We have also now gone over 2 million page views for the year…Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
--Tom Bannon is executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau