IndyGo’s new Blue Line, the third phase of our far-reaching transit-system re-engineering project that we call Bus Rapid Transit, is under development. BRT will change the way you think about public transportation in Indianapolis -especially to and from the airport.
Designed specifically to make commuting convenient for passengers — with fast, frequent operation — the Blue Line is poised to provide better access to work, education, healthcare, restaurants, entertainment and shopping. It offers an equitable alternative to driving for people of all ages and serves as a cornerstone of transportation options for Indianapolis and central Indiana.
The Blue Line is the next stage of our BRT system, providing increased frequency, reliability, comfort and convenience at a fraction of the cost of light rail. But unlike far-spaced light rail, the permanence of BRT infrastructure along the corridor supports increased private investment, contributing to increased economic opportunity and quality of life.
This is more than transit. The Blue Line is a massive infrastructure project, with more than half of the budget addressing the condition of the roadway, pedestrian facilities and drainage. The Blue Line will follow IndyGo’s current Route 8, along Washington Street from Cumberland west to the Airport. With the Blue Line, local route improvements, and the density of the corridor, the Blue Line will extend the rapid-transit benefits to communities and neighborhoods all along its path.
Since May 2022, when the project cost estimate came in well above previous cost estimates due to increased pricing, inflation and more refined design, IndyGo has been working diligently with project partners and stakeholders to determine whether the project could be built in a way that preserves the preferred design. Based on the results of this year long process, IndyGo has decided to continue progressing the Blue Line design, maintaining the transit components that residents have experienced on previous BRT lines. Modifications have been made to the project that have brought the cost more in line with available funding, including an alignment change west of Holt Road, change in type of buses and refinement in drainage design. Additional information can be found in FAQ’s below.
The Blue Line will provide rapid transit along Washington Street between Cumberland and the Airport, using I-70 west of Holt Road. Service will replace and improve the existing Route 8, providing fast, frequent and reliable transit service for its entirety of 24 miles.
Station Spacing: ½ – 1 mile
Distance: 24 miles
5% Design – End of April 2018
10% Design – August 2018
30% Design – January 2019
60% Design – March 2022
90% Design – November 2023
NEPA Approval – January 2024
Final Design – Q2 of 2024
FTA Grant Agreement – Q3 of 2024
Construction Start – Q1 of 2025
Construction End and Blue Line Opening – 2027
As the Blue Line bus rapid transit (BRT) route nears design completion, IndyGo plans to solicit community feedback through a series of in-person public meetings Dec. 5-7. Through these meetings, IndyGo is seeking feedback on how to better understand business and residential property access and ways to reduce the overall impacts during construction.
The agency is also seeking public input on the effects of the Blue Line project on the recognized public recreational properties of Indianola Park, Willard Park, Pleasant Run Trail and Browns Corner Park, in accordance with 23 CFR 774.5. The FTA has made a preliminary determination that the Blue Line Project is a Section 4(f) de minimis action for each property in accordance with 23 CFR 774.5, conditioned on public review and comment.
This interactive map shows 60% design for the Blue Line, showing proposed station locations and lane configurations. To view street descriptions and landmarks in the map below, hover over the “satellite” button and check the “labels” box.
This section is designed to answer any frequently asked questions pertaining to the Blue Line, including those regarding the rationale, intention, design, features or operations.
What is the status of the Blue Line?/Is the project still happening?
Yes, the project is still happening! Since the higher-than-expected cost estimate at the 60% design stage, IndyGo has been working diligently to see if there is a way to progress the desired project, while maintaining the vision of BRT set forth by previous BRT projects. IndyGo also has been working closely with project partners, especially the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and City of Indianapolis, and has determined that there is a viable path forward for the Blue Line. IndyGo is currently progressing the following project development activities:
IndyGo is working to complete the design phase of the Blue Line while still addressing funding gaps. We continue to work with project partners as we maintain our commitment to complete a transit project along Washington Street that delivers more efficient, accessible and rapid service to the community.
Why is the original route on West Washington Street between the Airport and Holt Road no longer included in the Blue Line?
The decision to alter the Blue Line’s alignment between the Airport and Holt Road was made with heavy consideration and collaboration with key stakeholders. The high cost of construction in the segment, low existing and projected ridership, design delays and property acquisition challenges on that segment were all factors that led to the decision. The Blue Line will now operate on I-70 between the Airport and Holt Road, then connect back to West Washington Street via Holt Road.
Why shift from electric to hybrid buses?
The shift to hybrid buses allows IndyGo to reach our clean fleet goals of lowering our carbon footprint, aligns with the FTA Grant submission requirements and meets our operating range needs without the costs of charging infrastructure. Hybrid buses will also give us more flexibility moving forward. The change has a significant cost savings, providing IndyGo a better chance at being able to proceed with the project. Note that this shift is only for the initial bus purchase right now. IndyGo will look for opportunities to replace the hybrid buses with zero emission vehicles as they are retired. Learn more here.
What is the latest timeline?
The 90% design phase is underway. There are a lot of moving pieces and factors that will determine the timeline moving forward. As such, the timeline is subject to change depending on how the project progresses. The following are current milestone estimates:
What are the latest cost projections?
The current project cost estimate is between $370-390 million. As design progresses and IndyGo gets closer to executing the FTA Grant, a final cost estimate will be developed.
How did IndyGo get the project costs down?
Three primary components of the project were adjusted to reduce overall cost. The first was to modify the vehicle from battery electric to diesel hybrid propulsion. Changing vehicle propulsion type significantly reduced the total number of vehicles required to operate the line and also reduced charging infrastructure needs, both at IndyGo facilities and at each end of the line. See previous answer that expands further on this decision.
The second component involved modifying the drainage design (with close coordination with the City of Indianapolis’ Department of Public Works and Citizens Energy Group) by consolidating detention sites and more closely considering which existing drainage systems could be feasibly included as a part of the project. Lastly, the Indianapolis International Airport has committed to leading construction for the future Blue Line’s western-most planned stop at the airport.
How is IndyGo planning to fund the project at the current cost projections?
Local contributions from IndyGo, the City of Indianapolis and Citizens Energy Group were all increased in order to fund the project. In addition to federal funds through the FTA, federal funds through the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization (IMPO) are also being utilized on the project. IndyGo, in conjunction with the City of Indianapolis, is also diligently considering, and pursuing where appropriate, additional federal funding opportunities.
Why are we building the Blue Line?
The Blue Line will provide access to work, education, health care, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping. It will be a cornerstone of a comprehensive set of transportation options serving Indianapolis and central Indiana and will offer an alternative to using autos for people of all ages. The Blue Line will follow IndyGo’s current Route 8, along Washington Street from Cumberland west to the Airport. With the Blue Line, local route improvements, and the density of the corridor, the Blue Line will extend the rapid-transit benefits to communities and neighborhoods all along its path.
In general, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems provide many of the benefits of light rail at a fraction of the cost. BRT systems provide increased frequency, reliability, comfort, and convenience relative to local bus services. The permanence of BRT infrastructure supports increased private investment in the corridor, contributing to increased economic opportunity and quality of life.
What makes the selected routes the best option?
The Blue Line will serve one of the most active existing transit corridors on Washington St. The current Route 8 is one of IndyGo’s most heavily traveled routes and is an excellent candidate to be upgraded to BRT.
How much will the construction of the Blue Line cost?
The original cost estimate for the project in 2019, pre-COVID, when the Blue Line was at 30% design was $220 million. The 60% cost estimate for the project was more than $500 million. The current cost estimate, which is based on an updated 60% design including recent refinements, is $370-390 million.
How is the Blue Line’s construction being paid for?
The Blue Line construction will be paid for in part by the local transit tax, other local sources and federal funds.
How will the Blue Line’s operating expenses be paid for?
The Blue Line operations will be paid for through fare box revenue and local transit tax.
Fares and Fare Collection
The Blue Line will operate under the same fare structure as local IndyGo service. IndyGo is planning a comprehensive fare analysis to examine various alternatives to its current fare structure, independent of the Blue Line project.
The Blue Line will utilize a “proof of payment” system for fare collection, where fares will be paid at ticket-vending machines on the station platform, through a mobile app, or some other form of fare media. To ensure compliance with the fare policy, IndyGo will employ fare-enforcement officers to randomly check passengers for proof of payment.
How will the Blue Line impact local transit services?
The Blue Line is one element of the Marion County Transit Plan; as such, optimal route alignments are being identified. It is likely that local routes that once traversed the same corridor as the Blue Line will now feed into the Blue Line, providing the potential for more frequent service in those areas.
Local routes will remain in service during construction of the Blue Line. During this time, there may be service advisories and/or detours to limit conflict with Blue Line construction and other construction activities occurring along the route. IndyGo will communicate impacts to IndyGo customers, commuters, local businesses, and the general public.
Service Hours, Schedules and Frequency
The Blue Line is planned to be operational from 5 – 1 a.m. on weekdays, 6 – 1 a.m. on Saturdays and 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Sundays. Service frequency is planned to be every 15 minutes.
The Blue Line will utilize rapid transit vehicles developed specifically for operation on IndyGo’s BRT lines. The rapid transit vehicles will be 60’ articulated buses with doors opening on either side of the vehicle.
Rapid transit vehicles will provide space for onboard bicycle storage. Bicyclists will board at a designated door nearest the space for bicycle storage, and platform-level boarding will enable bicyclists to conveniently and easily roll their bikes on and off each rapid transit vehicle. There will be no bike rack for bicycle storage on the front of the BRT buses.
More information will be provided as bicycle-storage components are determined.
To ensure the Blue Line is able to maintain its speed and frequency, now and in the future, Blue Line buses will operate in dedicated lanes along the majority of Washington St. Dedicated lanes improve reliability, which means that the bus arrives at the same time or at predictable intervals, regardless of time of day or day of week. They also greatly reduce impacts caused by congestion or traffic incidents, improve safety for all modes of transportation and allow for a dedicated lane for emergency vehicles to utilize as well.
BRT not only provides a needed alternative to auto use, but also enhances a community and provides an incentive for economic development. Since transit riders require no parking spaces at their destinations, rapid transit can reduce the need for businesses to provide their own parking, which can be very expensive. The permanence of BRT infrastructure supports increased private investment in the corridor, contributing to increased economic opportunity and quality of life.
BRT provides positive benefits for the environment. Research shows that commuters can save hours of travel time by shifting to BRT. By proxy, this reduces both the hours they sit in idling vehicles and vehicle-miles traveled. BRT also translates into better local air quality and reduces the likelihood of road fatalities and crashes. (More information is available here.)
By using electric rapid transit vehicles, IndyGo will reduce its consumption of diesel fuel and the emissions that result from diesel vehicles. In addition, zero-emission, fully-electric buses produce little to no noise pollution, allowing the rapid transit vehicles to operate without impacting nearby people or activities. It is anticipated that at least some of the energy required to charge the rapid transit vehicles on a daily basis will be derived from the solar panels atop IndyGo’s facility.
Investment and economic impact
The increase in transit capacity can also support an increase in investment and employment within the corridor. The Cleveland HealthLine stimulated $5.5 billion in investment after its opening in 2008. Several studies have found that the implementation of a BRT system leads to an increase in the number of jobs within the transit corridor, as well.
Impact on crime
Increases of transit capacity and frequency, and the introduction of new transit service, has not been found to result in an increase in criminal activity. Further, the introduction of well-lit stations with security cameras and other security systems, can result in a safer pedestrian environment. Some studies have shown a decrease in criminal activity following the introduction of increased transit service. Research is available here and here.
Research suggests that proximity to a Rapid Transit service increases the values of nearby properties. A sample of this research includes Bowes and Ihlanfeldt (2001); Cervero and Duncan (2002); Baum-Snow and Kahn (2000); Garrett (2004); Hess and Almeida (2007); and Perk and Catalá (2009).)
When the BRT system replaces local service on IndyGo’s busiest corridors, current transit riders will benefit from increased convenience, frequency, and reliability. In addition, transferring from local route service to the Blue Line will reduce wait times before boarding and travel times after boarding.
Left Turns and U-Turns with BRT
To maintain on-time transit service, safety for pedestrians and drivers, and traffic flow, many segments of IndyGo’s upcoming Red, Purple, and Blue BRT Lines will operate in exclusive or semi-exclusive center-running lanes. This means that the lanes are only for use by rapid transit vehicles and emergency vehicles, or may only be used by motor vehicle traffic under certain conditions.
When rapid transit vehicles are traveling in Bus Only Lanes, drivers will only be permitted to turn at signalized intersections for their safety. All signalized intersections will include a protected U-Turn phase and construction includes the addition of new signals to improve safety and flow. See video below:
Welcome to IndyGo’s curated archive of documents related to the Blue Line project, such as traffic and environmental studies. As the project has evolved over time, so have the documents associated with it. Please note that several documents may have been updated multiple times. Each document should indicate the date of those changes and/or additions and reflect when they became effective.
Find all the resources you need by signing up for the Blue Line newsletter. From project progress and detours to special promotions, you’ll get all the latest insider scoop.
Sign up to receive a construction look-ahead, updated routes and special promotions directly to your email. Submit your email address by clicking below.