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Getting around is fun and easy in Indy, P-burgh

Bluebummer shares this report on the Indianapolis transit system:

"I recently visited Indianapolis and rode their bus system IndyGo around town a few times. I was absolutely amazed at the impeccable cleanliness.

"I rode on their system from near the circle out to the children's museum and then back and around the downtown area. The timing based on their schedule was near perfect while I was there.

"IndyGo also has what is known as the Blue Line. It is a free bus line that goes to most of the downtown attractions: circle center, monument, capitol building and all of the hospitals.

"All of these wonderful things for only $1.25 per ride and only $50 for a 31 (yes 31) day pass, much cheaper than what CTA gouges us with.

"On their website they also have these wonderful "how to ride" instructions. I think the CTA needs to post something like this at every stop. Also you can purchase day passes on board the downtown buses. Much easier than hunting down a kiosk or finding a store that might carry them or be sold out like I have found often in Chicago!

"Go to www.indygo.org for more info on the Indianapolis bus system."

Thanks for that report, Bluebummer.

Meanwhile, I visited my hometown of Pittsburgh recently to see the woeful Steelers play. The city of Three Rivers uses large clipper boats to transport Steelers fans from tourist spot Station Square to Heinz Field. And they offer a full bar to gulping riders on 10-15 minute ride.

Gotta love that public transit model!


First off, the website is www.indygo.net.

I love when people compare these tinhorn bus systems to major transit systems. It's apples and oranges. To wit, this free bus line runs from 10 AM to 10 PM and covers a route about three miles across. Big deal, these sound like the CTA downtown trolleys.

Very few of the pay bus routes run between 10 PM and 5 AM. Many of the routes have headways of an hour. As near as I can tell, there are no transfers (reduced or free). This bus system would be unable to operate in the city of Chicago.

Oh, and the CTA has "how to ride" information on its website:


I have to admit that paying $75 for a 30-day pass here seems very reasonable to me.

As a point of comparison, a 30 day pass in NYC is $76 and SEPTA in Philly has a monthly pass for $70. MARTA in Atlanta has monthly passes for $52.50 but their system is not 24 hrs. METRO in DC and BART in San Fran don'tt offer monthly passes.

BART in the Bay Area doesn't offer a monthly pass- that's right.

MUNI, which runs throughout municipal SF, does offer a monthly pass that works on BART if you're taking a ride within SF (ex., Glen Park to Montgomery). When I lived there, 1999-2001, a monthly MUNI pass (Fastpass) was $35. A steal. I took the BART to and from work everyday and it was awesome.

I consider the montly CTA pass to be a bargain.

The Indy transit system is limited and doesn't really get you anywhere. It's not a fair comparison to the CTA.

I have to agree with the unfair comparison. This is like comparing an alley to the Ike Expwy. I think it was the point of the Indy service being extremely clean, and this would be an ideal model for other transit systems....but the reality of this being achieveable is just not as feasible on a large system such as that in Chicago, NYC, or D.C.

I also have to admit that my $75/month debit to the CTA is a welcome sight considering I don't have to buy gas or auto insurance...for just $75 I can get around the city at any time of day or night, transfer frequently, be lazy and take the bus 2 blocks if I want to. It's a great value from my perspective...and if I have to deal with a little bit of trash or a crazy person now and again, I don't mind it (within reason, of course). I think we have it pretty lucky!

Well I have to pay my $75/month here and then still have to end up driving at times because the service is too damned unreliable. So if the system worked I would love paying $75 it saves me a lot of money, but as is, sometimes its not worth even a penny.

Yeah, comparing Indygo to Pace would probably be more fair, but then Pace has to cover a wider area, and I think with a lower funding ratio.

It's most fair to compare CTA service to say, SEPTA (Philly) or the NYCTA, as these are systems from similar vintages with -roughly- similar funding issues (though NYCTA gets a jackpot from Real Estate and tollbridge fees).

MBTA (Boston) gets way more public funding than CTA, so thats more of an issue with local government, not CTA. And all the other systems are much newer (DC Metro, SF BART, LA MTA, Atlanta MARTA, etc.)

I, for one, don't think that comparing CTA with IndyGo is unfair at all.

1. Yes, IndyGo would not be appropriate for Chicago. Neither would CTA be appropriate for a city like Indianapolis. I am not sure why it is a tin horn. I assume that the buses are constructed of materials similar to the CTA buses, but that's neither here nor there. The comparison was in cleanliness and timeliness at which IndyGo bests CTA. Why is that? Why can't CTA trains and buses be similarly clean and timely?

2. Vintages and funding issues? Who cares?!? That's just an excuse for underwhelming performance. If the trains and buses were clean and ran on time, funding would not be a problem since more people would be able to use the service. The monthly pass is worthless if the system cannot get people to work in a timely fashion. A little preventive maintenance would have gone a long way toward keeping the system up to snuff. Unfortunately, it's a little too late for that.

eBob: Vintage and funding are probably the two greatest issues affecting performance. The 2200-series cars on the Blue and Pink lines are 35 years old, 10 years past their design life. I believe the 2400-series cars (Green and Purple) are hitting the end of their design life this year. It costs big bucks to maintain outdated equipment, money which could be spent elsewhere with a more modern fleet. CTA has been very active in the replacement of aging buses to the point that bus maintenance costs are steadily decreasing every year. Rail maintenance costs continue to rise.

As for funding, that is king. NYC picks up roughly 25% of the NYCTA operating budget. Chicago picks up what, 1%? The entire RTA funding formula is so out of whack and the CTA is getting the short end of the stick. CTA has a 52% farebox recovery ration. NYCTA is getting a little over 40%. So where does that extra 10% come from? you guessed it, public fundung.

I'm not saying that there isn't room for improvement with the CTA but in their defense, they have been doing more with less for years and it is finally catching up with them.

I moved to Chicago from Indy in 1999 and the IndyGo bus system (formerly called Metro) has only gotten worse in the past seven years. Where once the 8 bus (Washington Street, a major thoroughfair) ran every 15 minutes M-F, and ever 30 minutes S-S, it now runs only every 30 minutes, every day of the week. Which makes it insanely inconvenient to get around and make connections.

Coverage on the heavily developed North Side of the city is almost non-existent. There are no express routes to speak of.

Indianapolis is a disaster in many ways--it's public transit system is merely a symptom.

It's easy to keep a bus on schedule when traffic is as light and predictable as it is in Indy. And it's easy to keep a bus clean if few people ride it.

On many Chicago routes, if a run is missed, another bus is just a couple minutes behind, especially when most people are going to work. In Indy, if a run is missed, you might as well go have breakfast as the next scheduled run won't be along for quite some time.

So it's wonderful that someone had such a great experience riding the bus for a single round-trip between a couple of the rare spots that actually have service, at a time of day when the buses actually run. That's a far different situation than someone making a daily commute, or attempting to survive in the city without a car. When you compare apples to apples, the CTA kicks IndyGo's butt.

Boston's T monthly pass is $71 (or it was when I was there summer of '05), and I thought that was a bargain. Just throwing that in for more comparison fodder.

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