A referendum offering the option to extend the IndyGo red line into Hamilton County won’t be on the ballot in November after all.
Westfield’s Washington Township board unanimously approved the referendum – which would give voters the choice to raise their income taxes to pay for expanded bus service – Tuesday morning.
But by Tuesday evening, Carmel’s Clay Township board turned it down.
The ballot referendum would've asked voters to pick whether or not they support funding and executing the second phase of the Central Indiana Transit Plan, which would extend the red line bus out of Indianapolis all the way up to 191st Street.
Clay Township’s decision means Washington Township can’t hold their referendum this year, either, because state law requires referendum townships to touch, and Washington Township doesn’t border Marion County.
Mary Eckard, Clay Township board member, said she decided not to approve the referendum because of lack of information about the transit plan.
Instead, Eckard says her county is going to follow Indianapolis’ lead.
“We don’t have a track record yet on how this works," Eckard said. "Marion County is certainly ready to go ahead with it, so it will give us a good look into what we need to do here.”
Matt Snyder, Clay Township board president and self-described transit proponent, said voters couldn't have been educated on the issue between now and November.
Snyder said there also may be other ways to fund the transit without raising Carmel's income tax.
"[The Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority] has spent decades working on this," Snyder said. "But it's primary focus has been Marion County, and I really would like to see us drill in the details of Clay Township a little more and how we can best service our residents. If we're paying for it, then it should be our residents who are the concern."
If voted in, the referendum would have increased area income taxes by 25 cents for every $100 earned.
Sean Northup from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization – which is in charge of funding and mapping out the great Indianapolis area's transportation plan – said adding Westfield and Carmel to the long-term bus system makes sense regionally.
“There are a lot of folks who, demographically, are asking for transit," he said. "We’re seeing that millennials are looking for transit-served neighborhoods. We’re seeing that boomers are looking to downsize."
Hamilton County Commissioner Christine Altman – who is also a member of the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority – supported the referendum and said her county's increase in population calls for alternative ways for getting around.
"As elected officials, we need to learn to plan for people who are coming up below us, in terms of age, and not plan for what we see as the norm," Altman said. "That's probably the hardest transition that most of the folks who are elected officials have – to see and recognize what it's going to take to attract the talent that we want, and further, provide mobility for the workers who support our basic needs and economy."
Another transit referendum can be considered by the Hamilton County boards in 2018.