Dec 18, 2023 - News

IndyGo's next leader faces slow pandemic recovery, state fight

Data: American Public Transportation Association; Note: Includes all modes; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: American Public Transportation Association; Note: Includes all modes; Chart: Axios Visuals

IndyGo is set to enter 2024 with continuing ridership struggles, a simmering battle with state lawmakers and no permanent leader.

Driving the news: IndyGo has accepted the resignation of its much-heralded CEO, Inez Evans, just weeks ahead of a new state legislative session where lawmakers are once again preparing to take aim at the Indianapolis transit agency.

Why it matters: Evans' successor must oversee IndyGo's bus rapid transit buildout alongside a persistent post-pandemic drop in ridership.

By the numbers: IndyGo's local routes handled 549,206 rides in November, down about 30% from 788,240 in November 2019.

Between the lines: The agency's lingering ridership struggles, plus rising construction costs, will fuel another attempt by some Republican lawmakers to derail plans for the Blue Line, the third leg of the city's BRT project.

  • State Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, told Fox59 he "will certainly have a bill" aimed at stopping IndyGo from dedicating two lanes on Washington Street to the Blue Line.
  • IndyGo for years has said eliminating the lanes would kill the project because federal funding requires them.

Catch up fast: Freeman and other Republicans have introduced similar legislation repeatedly over the past three years.

  • He argues IndyGo has failed to perform and that tying up the lanes will harm car commuters.

Reality check: Those legislative efforts have died each year and did not even come close to passing in 2023.

State of play: Jennifer Pyrz, a civil engineer who has been a leader on the Purple Line, has taken over as interim CEO and has experience navigating the Statehouse.

What they're saying: "She understands this agency and the vital service the IndyGo team provides," IndyGo board member Mary Ann Fagan said of Pyrz in a statement.

What's next: The agency expects to launch its search for a permanent CEO "over the next several months," per a statement.

The bottom line: It's a perilous moment for IndyGo's leadership transition.

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