What Cleveland Can Learn from Indianapolis

This post was written by Curt Ailes and originally appeared on the fantastic urbanist blog Urban Indy.

Thursday, a post on Rust Wire written by Angie Schmitt really made some waves across the twitter and blogosphere today. In the post, Angie detailed how a regional planning official basically laughed off what she had to say about their aims as an organization and paid little heed to the Rust Wire’s criticisms, albeit as true as they are.

Cleveland BRT at Station (image credit: Graeme Sharpe)


To be sure, Cleveland is a city experiencing its share of sprawl-related issues. They have rail transit and a world class BRT (bus rapid transit) line called The Health Line. One would think that these forward thinking infrastructure projects would indicate a region propelling forward through the ranks of sustainable and livable cities. That is not, however, the case.

The paradigm really struck me as one personally invested in Indianapolis’ efforts to move transit forward. Indianapolis gets a tremendous amount of national coverage for its compact and walkable downtown. We are listed often as a place to visit for weekend destinations and we even have a budding bicycle culture that gets some attention at the national level. I generally feel that Indy is headed in the right direction despite a lot of criticism offered here at Urban Indy.

Taking this a step further, a couple years back Ehren Bingaman, Executive Director of CIRTA, reached out to Urban Indy and proposed a blogger forum. This first meeting was held at my house. Two fellow Urban

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Indy bloggers joined Ehren and me where we drank local beer and my wife cooked some delicious food, and we talked about the coming release of the Indy Connect proposal. Since then, we have had a number of these. So many, in fact, that I have lost count of the number. We have added other regional planning officials to the meetings and we have had dinner at other people’s homes as well.

While we aren’t sitting around crafting policy or transit plans while intoxicated on local beer, what we are doing is forging productive cooperation between regional planning officials and bloggers. Whatever it was that Ehren sought to start, it has resulted in first-name-basis dialogue that I’d like to think has benefited all involved. For my part, I certainly feel like I’ve contributed more than the average citizen.

Hopefully in the coming years, Indianapolis can be counted among cities with rail transit and a world class BRT system right alongside Cleveland. Hopefully, Cleveland can be counted along Indianapolis as a region willing to listen to its dedicated and positive thinking citizen-base and willing to take advantage of their educated and much needed perspective.

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