Greenwood senator wants to divert money for increased bus service to highway expansion

Waltz says plan would benefit non-bus riders

INDIANAPOLIS - A frequent critic of the mass transit plan for central Indiana came up with his own package for increased  bus service Tuesday. 

But supporters of expanded transit said Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, is just trying to sink the whole idea. 

Waltz said the plan from transit advocates does nothing for central Indiana residents who would never ride buses or trains, so he put together a radically different proposal.

Waltz's plan would ditch light rail commuter trains altogether in favor of standard buses and bus rapid transit.

He said he would also take some of the tax money intended for buses and divert it to highways, an idea guaranteed to anger transit advocates.

Waltz would use that money to add lanes to busy roads, including some exclusively for carpoolers.

"What I've seen over the last few years is what I would determine to be a lack of value proposition for many citizens in central Indiana,” Waltz said. “A citizen living in Hamilton County whose income tax would go up potentially several hundred dollars by current proposals from the last General Assembly would ask why."

Indianapolis Democrats on the committee were sharply critical of Waltz's proposal.

They said his plan wouldn't work because it would require the legislature to micromanage transportation in central Indiana.

And since the proposed local income tax increase would probably just barely cover the cost of expanded transit as it is, diverting part of it to roads wouldn't leave enough for buses.

Rep. Edward DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, called the plan economically unfeasible and said that’s one of the reasons Waltz is supporting it.

DeLaney said he thought Waltz was trying to kill the measure, but Republicans weren't as openly critical.

The sponsor of last session's transit bill, Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, agreed that Waltz's plan is not economically feasible.

The committee probably won't adopt anything like Waltz's plan, but he does represent a substantial number of legislators who question the value of transit subsidies and could block any proposal.

Supporters of the Indy Connect plan to beef up regular bus service in Marion and Hamilton counties and add bus rapid transit hope the legislature will approve a voter referendum for the November, 2014, election ballot.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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