IndyGo puts Indianapolis in forward drive

By Michael Terry

IndyGo is the face of public transit in the communities of Indianapolis, IN. The Public Transportation Corporation serves the metropolitan area with 29 fixed routes, three commuter express routes, an airport/downtown express route and our paratransit service. The company provides more than 27,000 weekday trips for our Central Indiana resident commuters.

The current IndyGo story is not unlike many other transit agencies across the country. As demand for public transportation increases, so do the operating expenses. In 2008 IndyGo provided 9.6 million passenger trips, generating one million more than the previous year. A new president and CEO is at the helm as IndyGo gets poised for what it believes will be another pivotal year for mass transit in Indianapolis.

IndyGo attributes its continuous growth to a combination of factors, namely the spike in fuel prices during the summer months of 2008. Additionally, the agency has focused on a series of public outreach programs designed to communicate the value of riding the bus as an alternative to single ride commuting.

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Other incentives have included the recent addition of IndyGo Commuter Express Routes (ICE) and the airport/downtown express route called the Green Line. As IndyGo adds more passengers to its customer base, we can turn to their feedback and suggestions to learn new ways of improving customer service.

Learn, Ride and Save

To attract a new passenger, one with little or no bus riding history, the core of our public message in recent years has been the tagline Learn, Ride and Save. Our advertising focuses on what IndyGo services entail, and encourages new riders to learn how to use the system, and garner the personal savings of leaving their cars at home. Intermingled in this message are the environmental benefits of bus commuting along with the benefit of less traffic congestion. As IndyGo spreads its message through television, radio, billboards and outreach events and reinforces its mission, the community is beginning to consider the agency a viable mobility option.

Instrumental to the public message are the many communication channels we rely on to guide new passengers as they learn a new life skill. All advertising and marketing materials include the company Web site and IndyGo customer service call center contact number. Using a combination of How to Ride System Maps, Rider Guidelines and How to Ride videos, new users have reference tools at their fingertips. If a person is still unsure, customer service representatives are available for personal trip planning services. Even more exciting is the anticipated launch of the online trip planner in 2009. This is another great use of modern technology to make riding the bus even more accessible and easier to understand. In 2008 there were more than 343,000 Web site visits and some 287,000 calls to the customer service center, logging record statistics for both resources.

In 2007 IndyGo initiated the launch of its ICE commuter express routes, made possible through federal grants for three-year demonstration routes. All routes originate outside of Indianapolis and connect working commuters to downtown. The ICE routes not only relieve some of the stress of traffic congestion on our major commuter highways, they are samples of what regional transportation can do for Central Indiana.

Convenient mobility option

As Indianapolis continues to become a major convention and visitor destination, IndyGo has integrated The Green Line in a new service to better serve our traveling visitors. The downtown/airport express route is inexpensive, fast, reliable and a convenient mobility option taking visitors from our new Indianapolis International Airport terminal to downtown Indianapolis.

Our services will continue to play an instrumental role in moving visitors as we prepare to host the Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.

IndyGo realizes the value and importance of its customer base and solicits feedback from its riders. In response to various customer proposals, IndyGo created the 31-day S Pass for local colleges and universities at a half-fare fee. Not only was the suggestion a benefit to local colleges and universities, it was a unique opportunity for IndyGo to secure a new, untapped audience. IndyGo also has developed a relationship with the city’s largest urban campus — Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), providing it with its own fare pass program. Students with the IUPUI S Pass have unlimited use of IndyGo fixed routes, four of which serve the campus including the Red Line IUPUI/Downtown Circulator.

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The IndyGo story does not end here. Guided by the Comprehensive Operational Analysis, a 15-year plan exploring enhancements across the board, IndyGo will continue to monitor existing routes for improved efficiencies and expand when funding is available. With the plan in hand, new leadership and a commitment to the Indianapolis community, IndyGo is looking ahead to fill the needs of commuters and become an even more crucial element to Indianapolis’ infrastructure.

Michael Terry is the new president and CEO of the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation. Terry has served with IndyGo since 2003, and stood in as interim president and CEO since 2008. He previously served as deputy commissioner for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.