As IndyGo accelerates construction to finish the first phase of a frequent transit bus line in time to open it by the end of summer, Carmel officials are taking a look at the possibility of offering public transportation here.
The Carmel Board of Public Works on Feb. 6 approved a $110,135 contract with Los Angeles-based transportation consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard to study the issue.
A state law adopted in 2014 allows local option income taxes to help pay for public transportation with voter approval. Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the city initiated the Nelson/Nygaard transit study in anticipation of the issue being presented to voters in the future.
“What we want to do is be prepared to answer the questions the public would have if the city council and the township board would choose to place it on the ballot,” Brainard said.
Carmel has essentially been without public transportation since Indy Express stopped serving the city in late 2016 as ridership declined. The city is asking Nelson/Nygaard to take a look at possible public transportation options within Carmel, although Brainard said it’s too early to know what that might look like.
“I’m interested within Carmel how we get people around better, so we’re looking at (options),” Brainard said. “We’ve been looking at the center core, the U.S. 31 office corridor and the downtown areas where that makes sense. It relieves congestion on our roads, so it’s part of the transportation picture.”
The Nelson/Nygaard study is expected to take approximately nine months to complete. The process will include a market analysis, stakeholder meetings and a draft report presented at a city council meeting.
IndyGo’s Red Line is proposed to eventually run through Carmel and Westfield, but funding for the expansion hasn’t been identified. Carmel’s study is independent of the Red Line project, although documents submitted to the city from Nelson/Nygaard note the potential of linking to it in the future.
“After completing a regional transit plan in 2016 that did not garner enough public support for a successful ballot initiative, Hamilton County remains unserved by any fixed-route transit service,” it states. “As the neighboring community to Marion County and Indianapolis, Carmel is envisioned as the first extension of the IndyGo Red Line.”
The first phase of the Red Line will take riders along a 13-mile stretch between Broad Ripple and the University of Indianapolis, with buses running every 10 minutes. Future phases of the project are expected to expand the line north and south to Marion County’s borders with Hamilton and Johnson counties.
Brainard said local support for eventually expanding the Red Line in Carmel will likely be affected by how the project fares in Marion County.
“I’d like the public to see what they’ve done (in Indianapolis),” he said. “If they like it, they’ll approve it. If they don’t, they’ll say no, so let’s see how it goes up to 96th Street.”