Bus line considered for western part of county

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HANCOCK COUNTY — A transportation organization is considering creating a bus service for getting Indianapolis residents to and from jobs in warehouse-heavy western Hancock County.

The Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority, or CIRTA, has approached county officials about the possibility.

Mohammad Khan, mobility manager for CIRTA, recently briefed the Hancock County Redevelopment Commission on how the authority has helped establish bus services connecting Indianapolis residents with warehouse jobs in Plainfield and Whitestown. CIRTA could do something similar for Hancock County, he said.

The county redevelopment commission last year commissioned a study on business retention and expansion in the Mt. Comfort area, which has drawn dozens of large warehouses over the past few years. According to that analysis, a majority of the area’s commuters come from Marion County.

Working with Hancock Economic Development Council executive director Randy Sorrell, CIRTA’s preliminary ideas envision bus stops at Post Road and 38th Street as well as John Marshall High School in Indianapolis. After picking up workers at those stops, Khan said, buses could then head to businesses in the Mt. Comfort area and continue east toward Greenfield for some of the businesses just west of Ind. 9.

Khan said $240,000 could fund the service for three years. Half of that would come from a Federal Transit Administration grant at CIRTA’s disposal, along with 10% from the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Public Mass Transportation Fund. The remaining 40% would come from creating an economic improvement district, Khan continued. To do that, a vote would be sought from all the landowners of the businesses that would benefit from the bus service to determine whether they’d pay the remaining costs.

After the initial three years, the businesses would have to cover the entire cost unless more grant funds were secured.

CIRTA would handle all of the administrative work for the bus service and grants, and work to ensure regulations are met and bus maintenance is kept up.

Khan said his figures are based on estimates from Miller Transportation, which provides the bus service CIRTA oversees in Plainfield and Whitestown. Should a similar service move forward in Hancock County, a request for proposals from transportation providers would have to be issued.

CIRTA would need a letter of support from the Hancock County Board of Commissioners to move forward with the endeavor.

Indianapolis residents with jobs in Plainfield’s warehouse sector can take an IndyGo route to a stop on Marion County’s border with Hendricks County. From there, they can pay a $1 fare to to take a bus to their job in Plainfield.

Robin Brandgard, president of the Plainfield Town Council, said the town has had the bus service for about six or seven years.

“We knew we had to find a way to get the workers out to where there’s work,” he said.

The service started out with grant funds and when that ran out, the town worked with CIRTA to create an economic improvement district and involve the businesses.

“Most of them saw it as a good investment, and the rest came on board with it,” Brandgard said. “It’s been very successful.”

But not without some challenges.

“I think the biggest challenge was finding out who the businesses were so we could contact them,” he said, noting it’s not always obvious which companies are operating inside the big buildings.

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