The Indianapolis metropolitan region is the 33rd largest in the nation, yet funding for its transit services ranks way down at 86th. For years, the 7,500-member Mid-Indiana Board of REALTORS® (MIBOR) has been working to shrink this gap, and with two recent REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grants, it has just succeeded.
MIBOR Vice President of Government and Community Relations Chris Pryor states that the REALTORS® are committed to improving transit for greater access to jobs, education, healthcare, recreation and housing. But it’s more than a simple quality of life issue for the community, he says: “Adequate transit is also the key to keeping greater Indianapolis economically competitive, in terms of being able to attract business and accommodate a talented workforce. Transit is a critical factor in the region’s future prosperity.”
In 2009, MIBOR was instrumental in forming the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, which identified significant need for increased transit services in the region, and then developed a plan for an expanded bus network and the creation of three new rapid transit lines. Establishing a local funding source for the improved infrastructure required the blessing of the Indiana General Assembly, a process that took five attempts in six years before finally passing in 2014. The next step was getting a local referendum passed to adopt a 0.25% income tax that would be dedicated to funding mass transit. A major Issues Mobilization Grant funded a coalition effort called ‘Transit Drives Indy,’ a campaign combining phone banks, radio and online advertising, and a website urging voters to pass the ballot initiative for a dedicated transit fund.
On Election Day 2016, the referendum passed with nearly 60% of the vote, winning 19 out of 25 city council districts. Already, MIBOR and its coalition partners were looking ahead to the final hurdle: ensuring that the Indianapolis City County Council would vote to approve the tax.
MIBOR had secured a second Issues Mobilization Grant to support the coalition’s post-referendum strategy, which focused on getting pro-transit voters to apply pressure to city councilors to enact the tax. After a few intensive weeks of targeted patch-through calls from constituents, the City County Council approved the tax in a vote of 17-to-8.
Lacey Everett, MIBOR’s Government and Community Relations Strategist, says “The campaign we put together was key in getting us over the top, and we couldn’t have done it without the support and resources of the National Association of REALTORS®. Beyond the funding, the Issues Mobilization team was a great sounding board for lots of ideas, and responded quickly to challenges that arose during the campaigns.” By 2018, she says, the newly established transit fund will begin building a system that will double employment within a half-mile of frequent routes; triple service to families in poverty, seniors and households including someone with a disability; and expand economic opportunity by providing access to three urban college campuses.
Pryor notes that the urgency of the region’s transit funding needs was heightened by the nationwide power shift following the elections, which made federal funding that the region had been expecting, uncertain, at best. “Although we still don’t know whether we’ll be receiving a Federal Small Start Grant, at least Indianapolis will be able to move ahead with its much-needed transit plan, once the new tax kicks in this fall.”
To learn more about how mid-Indiana REALTORS® are helping to promote economic development and a greater quality of life in their region by taking the lead on supporting mass transit expansion, contact Chris Pryor, MIBOR’s Vice President of Government and Community Relations, at 317-258-5805; or Government and Community Relations Strategist Lacey Everett, at 317-956-5252.