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.
During IndyGo’s August Board Meeting, the Board of Directors discussed the status of the agency’s upcoming Blue Line bus rapid transit (BRT) line. IndyGo staff informed the board they need more time to evaluate the current design of the Blue Line due to increased pricing, inflation and change in drainage requirements. IndyGo will continue to work with partners and all parties involved to determine the best alternatives available to complete a rapid transit project. Learn more here.
*Disclaimer: The project information below reflects 60% design completion, which IndyGo will reassess to address increased pricing, inflation and change in drainage requirements.
The Blue Line will provide rapid transit along Washington Street between Cumberland and the Airport, replacing and improving the existing Route 8 local service, providing fast, frequent and reliable transit service for its entirety of 24 miles.
Stations: Level boarding
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
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?
IndyGo staff informed the board that they need more time to evaluate the current design of the Blue Line due to increased pricing, inflation and change in stormwater requirements.
Why is the cost so different from the original estimates?
The cost estimates we were working from were developed at the 30% design submittal, which was in 2019, pre-COVID. The updated numbers were calculated based on the 60% design, and considered recent IndyGo, DPW and INDOT bid tabulations to get the most accurate costs for the current economic situation. The highest cost components of the new Blue Line are electric buses, drainage and inflation. The bus cost estimate is around $128 million for 55 battery electric buses. The Blue Line is showing an estimated 42% of the project cost is drainage infrastructure, increased significantly from the 30% design cost because of changes in design standards and assumptions. Inflation adds an additional $60 million to the current cost. Current cost estimates are totaling more than $500 million which is more than doubled.
How do Blue Line stormwater infrastructure costs compare to Purple Line stormwater cost?
18% of construction cost to address drainage
42% of construction cost to address drainage
What changed in the stormwater requirements that impacted the cost?
The updated designs to Blue Line were adjusted to meet compliance standards. IndyGo is working with CEG and DPW to evaluate those requirements and the impact on the Blue Line.
How did IndyGo come to this decision?
In July, IndyGo hosted a value engineering workshop with some of the industry’s top professionals in transit, infrastructure, and construction management. Those professionals included representatives from transit agencies in Jacksonville, Denver, Los Angeles and the Federal Transportation Administration. The results of that evaluation offered some recommendations we need to further analyze the best way to move forward.
Will IndyGo lose the grant if they do not proceed with design?
This project is so important to the future network that we have remained in close contact with our partners at the FTA. We’re sensitive to the need to put forth a Blue Line project that is highly competitive. The analysis we are planning will help us prepare our update for the grant submission to the FTA. If this change in definition for the project were to have an impact on our scoring, we’ll know what we need to address and will have the time to do so before submitting our final grant request.
What is next?
Next steps include taking some time to work with all our design partners, the City of Indianapolis, CEG and the community to determine the best alternatives are available to complete a rapid transit project.
Didn’t IndyGo just get $33 million from the FTA?
Yes, but the grant was specific to fund building a new garage at our East Campus to accommodate the additional buses we will need for the Purple Line and any future rapid transit projects.
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 latest cost estimates for the project are more than $500 million. The significant price increase is due to inflation and a change in design standards and costs for drainage infrastructure.
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, & Frequency
The Blue Line is planned to be operational every day of the year. A Blue Line rapid transit vehicle will arrive at each station every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 15 minutes during the weekend.
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.
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