In 2016, an Indianapolis-based faith organization launched a successful campaign to bring more funding to the mass transit system in Marion County. Shelterforce’s Miriam Axel-Lute talks with Nicole Barnes of Faith in Indiana about why the organization focused on transit improvements, how they balanced the tension between expanding rail line service and improving bus service, and how race had to be at the forefront.
Miriam Axel-Lute: Why did IndyCAN (now Faith in Indiana) pick transit improvements as a goal?
Nicole Barnes: Transit was something that we believe was imperative for the work that we do. It aligns with our mission, which is to empower and give diverse communities the opportunity to work together. We want to serve as a catalyst for the marginalized and for faith communities so they can act together for racial and economic equity. Transit absolutely fit in racial and economic equity. When we started digging into the research, we saw how lack of transportation contributed greatly to poverty.
We had this opportunity to get transit on the ballot in 2016. Our leaders and our people [agreed that] this is something that will not just improve the city economically, but will also improve our communities from a racial standpoint [and] from an economic development standpoint. That campaign beautifully embodied our mission, which is to get people from all sides to work together toward something good.
We called this campaign “Ticket to Opportunity.” Even in our choice of what we called it, it [was clear it] wasn’t just about transit, but transit as an opportunity for people to get out of the circumstances that they were in. …