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IndyGo Red Line: The bumpy road to 1 year in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It has been one year since IndyGo launched the Red Line rapid-transit bus line, hitting speed bumps along the way.

Over the last year, the Red Line has brought about convenience for riders going one place to another between 96th Street and Greenwood, but the rapid-transit system has been met with one issue after the other since it launched on Sept. 1, 2019.

When IndyGo launched the Red Line, they planned to offer one month of free rides so that people could try out the new route in hopes of enticing more people to take public transit.

One month of free rides quickly turned into three months after IndyGo said they were having problems with Flow Bird, the fare company they were working with.

“We definitely recognize there were some challenges with the ticketing system,” said IndyGo’s Faith Chadwick.

This time last year, buses were packed with curious riders.

“We had great ridership and we had people coming out, especially when the line was brand new and we saw great ridership in that first month,” said Chadwick.

September 2019 would see what would turn out to be record numbers for the Red Line with 246,369 passenger trips according to IndyGo.

But when that curiosity burned out IndyGo reported a 50% decrease in Red Line ridership from September to December 2019.

Monthly Passenger Trips:

  • September 2019: 246,369
  • October 2019: 207,241
  • November 2019: 179,757
  • December 2019: 130,015
  • January 2020: 138,480
  • February 2020: 114,910
  • March 2020: 93,763
  • April 2020: 62,700
  • May 2020: 51,480
  • June 2020: 59,642
  • July 2020: 71,818

“Well because of what has been going on with the virus, it is kind of hit or miss right now, that is that thing,” said Red Line rider Bobby Williams when talking about what he sees on the bus daily. Williams says he has been using the Red Line regularly since it launched.

The Red Line hit other speed bumps along the way, having to replace medians along the routes changing them from rubber to concrete, issues with drivers and traffic, and buses not having enough power to complete a full day’s routes.

Ridership started to pick back up in January, reporting 138,480 passenger that month; then the pandemic hit.

“So this has not been a typical first year of having the line open. With the pandemic, we saw systemwide declines in our ridership,” said Chadwick.

IndyGo reported 71,818 passenger trips on the Red Line in July, which is about 40% less than the month of February, before the “stay at home” order took effect.

People who have regularly been using the Red Line over the last year like Jacqueline Johnson and Bobby Williams feel the Red Line is improving their day-to-day lives.

“It is very convenient,” said Johnson.

“It is pretty good. It is convenient for me because I take it out to Greenwood Park Mall and places like Ivy Tech,” said Williams.

However, with their frequent trips, they, too, have encountered some of those bumps in the road.

“So yeah, we have had major problems, like we have had some that break down before they get to you then you have to wait, maybe like a 10-minute wait,” said Johnson.

Both riders and IndyGo are hoping for a smoother ride as the rapid-transit system enters Year 2. Construction for the Purple Line is expected to start in 2021.

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