It is no secret that public transportation has been on the decline in northwest Indiana. Reliance on cars has started to create a sprawl. “In the 1990s, the 10.9 percent growth in car and truck ownership was three times as high as the population growth of 2.9 percent” per the 2012 Quality of Life Indicators Report. If passenger car usage continues to increase, congestion and road work costs will both begin to soar. But I won’t dwell much on the problems, instead let’s look at some potential solutions.
The first solution I will present has a focus on sustainability. Introduce a new line of busses that run on either solar electricity or corn because God knows we have a substantial amount of both. While the initial investment in this solution would be high, we are obviously looking at long term implications here.
Another solution to the problem could a national high speed rail system. If this were to happen, the route from New York City to Chicago would have to run through northwest Indiana, so why not add our support for some stops here. Who am I kidding though, the national high speed rail system is a pipe dream that will never happen, especially with all the cuts to public programs already happening, but one can dream can’t they?
Another factor to consider in this discussion is the other role of transportation, the business side. In order to physically bring business to northwest Indiana the Gary-Chicago International Airport would almost certainly need to be upgraded. Currently a plan is in place to extend the runway from 7,000 to 8,900 feet. This will allow for larger commercial and passenger jets to utilize the conveniently located third airport of Chicago
Finally, I will present to you a solution that has less to do with busses and more to do with passenger cars. What if we cut the bus system completely and focused our efforts on a car sharing service like Sidecar. Basically, Sidecar is a service that allows anyone to become a part-time taxi driver in their own car. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous but it could be a viable solution with all the potential passenger cars in the area. Just think of it as turning your everyday routes to work into a way to turn a profit and reduce road traffic, and isn’t that really the end goal of this whole situation?
So what will it be Indiana? Planning for the future by investing in the bus of tomorrow that will continue to be sustainable into the distant future. Chasing a pipedream that will bring high speed rail transportation to northwest Indiana. Or settle for a basic solution that has a relatively low cost and allows for Indiana residents to make some money on the side. The solution seems obvious. There is no one solution, it will most likely be a combination of the solutions above with some that haven’t been mentioned in this article. But whatever the solution, the time to act is now.