Fall 2017 SAVI Online Magazine Emagazine Fall 2017 FINAL - Page 5

FEATURE STORY WHO RIDES THE BUS? MAYBE NOT WHO YOU THINK Kevin Sutton catches an IndyGo bus every workday at 6:15 a.m. from his home on the near-east side of Indianapolis to his workplace downtown. At 4:30 p.m., he takes the reverse route home. Sutton enjoys the 35-minute ride because he likes people watching, and because it’s a connection to his childhood, when he would visit his grandmother in Chicago and his family would take public transit downtown. “Riding the bus,” he says, “you learn that we’re all people. And you learn not to be scared of people.” A new report by The Polis Center suggests that Sutton is typical in many ways. Who Rides the Bus: Examining Transit Ridership in Marion County is based on data from a 2016 survey of riders commissioned by IndyGo and neighborhood-level socio-economic indicator data available in SAVI. It finds that about half of IndyGo trips are work related, about 75 percent of riders are employed, and 57 percent are, like Sutton, African-American. But Sutton, an investigator with the Marion County Public Defender Agency, defies stereotypes about who rides the bus in at least one important way: He has plenty of other options for getting around. He walks and bikes, and he owns a car that he uses mainly for buying groceries and going to church. The report notes that a substantial percentage of riders fall into this category. They choose to take the bus even though they have other options. “The results challenge the myth that people who use transit are low- income people who rely on it because they don’t have access to a vehicle,” says Kelly Davila, a senior research analyst with The Polis Center and co-author of the report. “Beyond just saying that wasn’t true, we wanted to look at who uses public transit and why. One takeaway is that riders are a cross-section of people who live in nearly every neighborhood in Indianapolis. And, they’re people who have access to other types of transportation and use public transit for different reasons. Just bringing that up, so that it can be discussed publicly, is an important step.” It’s important because it suggests that there is a big pool of potential riders for IndyGo, if it’s seen as a viable option. Build it and they will ride That was a key finding of a membership survey done last year by IndyHub, an organization that connects people in their 20s and 30s to opportunities for being involved in the life of the city. It asked its membership, mostly young professionals, a series of questions about what changes they would like to see in the city, and what improvements would make them more inclined to stay in Indianapolis long-term. 5