Level of View: Let’s flip our space into Indiana’s first transit-oriented church. Opinion
The time has come for the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka, the University of Notre Dame and St. Joseph Counties to join forces to transform our area into Indiana’s first transit-oriented community. Several parallel initiatives are currently being taken by each institution (downtown and riverside revitalization, entire streets, and the twin-track South Shore project) which, when combined and driven by federal and state funding, will advance our area as a national model for moderate action could. Rust-belted cities of the size trying to address key challenges – economic development, affordable transportation, suburban sprawl, and carbon footprint reduction.
The transit (network of modern trams, light rail vehicles, buses, bicycles and pedestrians) and the associated urban development are key instruments for civil, economic and ecological progress. A modern tram is a particularly effective tool for urban planning. The modern tram is a short electric train that travels on steel rails embedded in the street.
A modern tram not only serves the driving force by connecting key existing employment and cultural centers, services and institutions, but also attracts investment in new businesses, retail stores, restaurants, services and housing developments along its route. That is the urban part. The modern tram is the tool that our communities need now to accelerate the current rehabilitation of our community and maintain it in the long term.
Numerous cities across the country are benefiting from investing in modern trams. Portland, Tucson, Tacoma, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Little Rock have used modern streetcars as drivers of urban development and economic growth in the short and long term. Since voters approved the project in 2012, Kansas City has seen $ 2 billion in economic development within the boundaries of the KC Streetcar Development District and has just received $ 174 million in federal funding to build the second phase of the streetcar . Tucson’s Sunlink tram has generated $ 3 billion in investments on its 3.9-mile route, including 1,500 new office and residential units, restaurants, and retail and corporate headquarters.
South Bend is not a newcomer to trams as it benefited from a tram line in the early 1920s through the 1940s when it was replaced by city buses and the popularity of the automobile. Our community can benefit from this again. Rails laid on roads are a signal to businesses that they can rely on their investment along the transit line, as will be the case for years to come. Economic development is stimulated along the tram line, resulting in higher property values and tax revenues from retail sales, all of which provide new resources for reinvestment in our communities.
Modern trams serve low-income and transit-dependent populations by providing an affordable, comfortable high frequency service that serves a range of markets and populations. Studies have shown that rail traffic numbers increase overall use of public transport, including buses.
The tram promotes infill development and reduces the need for continuous, costly, and automatically dependent propagation. Cities report that trams improve the sense of place and make an urban lifestyle attractive. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and air quality is increased by reducing the number of journeys made by vehicles.
I experienced the power of modern trams up close. As a former dean of the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona and chairman of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, I was directly involved in designing the city of Tucson’s modern tram. The construction of the inner city route was largely funded by a large federal grant of $ 73 million.
Studies have shown that Tucson has increased its transit driver count by 25% (per capita) over the past five years. For more information on the modern tram facility in our community, please visit The RiverRail.com.
The time is now. The Biden government has announced plans for major investments in modern, sustainable infrastructure, and we will benefit from them. Our community is in an even better position than Tucson or Kansas City for federal funding, with the added competitive advantage of representing three “communities” (South Bend, Mishawaka, and Notre Dame), not just one. And all of this is to be accomplished under the leadership of our own Mayor Pete as Secretary of Transportation. There is no time to waste … let’s start the chase!
Jan Cervelli is the founding director of Serra Terra, LLC. She lives in Granger.