Ray Irvin Interview (cont)
NBG: So I don’t want to get too far off on touring a cemetery, that’s a pretty wild one and it might be a stretch for some of our listeners. But you are also integrated with the buses there, you’ve got a map, there’s a lot going on with that?
Ray: You know, our greenways have become so successful that 4 years ago we asked the city county council to take over the bike route system. Now the bike route system has historically been run by the Department of Transportation. And the signs that were up were the old yellow diamond signs with the stick bicycle on it, they had not been updated for nearly 24 years, the last map of our bike route system was 24 years old, there were so many lines on it you couldn’t make it out. It looked more like a street map than it did a bicycle route map, so we had asked the city county council to consider giving us greenways the authority to develop, with the guidance of the Department of Transportation which is part of our Public Works Division, the bike route system for the county. The council gave us that authority and we started out developing an entirely new bike route system for our county. We now have a logo, we have numbered bike routes. If you get on one of our bike routes, it actually has the number on it and that number will actually take you somewhere across our county and into the surrounding counties. We worked with our Department of Metropolitan Development and the Metropolitan Planning Organization which supported us on it and we now connect into all the surrounding counties with these bike routes and we worked with the Department of Transportation to look at what the best routes would be, we worked with our planners to see where we needed to go to to connect to what I considered destination nodes. And what draws people to use trails and bike routes is that you connect them to destinations that people want to go to. It may be schools, it may be libraries, it may be your downtown area, or areas where you have events and celebrations. We then worked with the bus company and we talked with the bus company about getting a transportation enhancement grant and putting bike racks on the front of all the buses. Well, that’s something they hadn’t done here. Today, we have more bikes on buses than you could possibly imagine. and part of that is coming from a service industry. Historically, it’s always been a kind of a service industry folks that have been the bus riders in large part and that’s unfortunate but now there’s another form of transportation that they can actually take their bike to work on the bus with them, ride back, or today there’s lots of business people going “you know, I’m just gonna take my bike and throw it on the bus and I’ll ride home this evening and get my exercise to unwind a little bit, decompress.” In fact, I’m trying to promote an idea of Take Your Bike To Work, it’s kind a takeoff of the very successful Take Your Sons and Daughters To Work. Take Your Bike To Work, you know you do that a couple of times a week, ride public transportation, get out of the car, ride your bike back home, work on that fitness stuff.
NBG: When you say service industry, I think that we’ve got a lay audience here. I know that you’re used to using that kind of language in the industry in which you speak really all over the nation. By that I think you mean, I know that to be the case, you’re talking about restaurant workers, hotel workers...
NBG: Ray, you talk about when you first gave rise or birth if you will to the greenway concept, people wanted fences. Talk about that for a second. Talk about the property values.
Ray: <laughter> When we first started talking about greenways, I’m telling ya, I went to the meetings. I went to a meeting one time and had the minutes recorded and the guy said, you’re gonna bring rape, robbery, animal mutilation, to my backyard and that was kind of the mindset out there. I swear to God, that actually happened, and it’s written in some of the official minutes in some of the meetings. And people were so afraid, you know, you’re gonna bring those sort of people to our backyard. Who are those people? You know what? You look in the mirror, we are those people. You look out on our trails today and it’s literally the citizens, it’s your neighbors, it’s the people that live in your community that’s out there using those trails and probably literally some of the best and brightest in our communities are the ones that are out using the trails and we want to see that go throughout our cities and get more and more people using them. But when we first started talking about the trails we would go to the meetings and people would say “Well, you’re gonna build a fence for me, we demand a fence. I don’t want to have anything to do with this trail. I’m selling my house. I’m moving away.” Well within 6 months of getting the trail down, anybody who had a fence put a gate in it. Anymore they don’t even build fences along our trail. I’ve got gillions of houses with no fences. Well in the meantime, we worked with Dr. Greg Lindsey, of Indiana University, Purdue University here in Indy, and he was with the School for Policy and Environment and they did some researches. We worked with the Marian County Board of Realtors and they gave him access to all of the home sales. And the home sales along our greenways are selling faster and for more money than other houses in our community and houses along the Monan are selling for as much as $14,000 and $15,000 more than houses just a few blocks away or houses without a trail that would be next to an old corridor. So everywhere we’ve looked in our city we’ve improved it and in one year, and this is from a few years ago, the estimate is as much as $285M increased in property values along our 20 greenway systems or 14 greenway systems in our community and that’s amazing.
NBG: Wow, and something about the National Department of Transportation.
Ray: Yeah, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you there. Dr. Greg Lindsey, we’re doing another research piece right now. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded a study over several years and we have over 20, actually over 30 laser counters out on our trails, all of our trails, and we have over 70 miles of trail right now. 8 miles of mountain bike trail and about 300 miles of bicycle routes, on street bicycle routes. But we have these laser counters out, we count on our trails 24/7. Plus we have some video that we’re doing of our trail so we actually looked at when that beam is broken what’s the nature of that usage. Is it roller bladers, bicyclists, walkers, joggers, wheel chairs, baby carriages, I mean, we’re counting all of that stuff. Dr. Lindsey has actually created some formulas now that the National Department of Transportation is looking at using to forecast what the usage in trails may be around the country based on population density, census track, all these other things that are just absolutely amazing. He’s produced two reports, one on property values. He’s working now on this study of formulating the numbering matrix for gathering and processing projections on usage. We did a trail study on six of the trails in the state of Indiana on usage. It’s health and fitness, who’s using the trail and why. Over 70% of the people are using the trails for health and fitness, a portion for transportation. We thought originally this would be a nice recreational amenity. This is actually turning into a health and fitness component for our city, it’s turning into a transportation, it’s turning into a way for kids to get to the parks. You know, I think some of our great adventures as kids were “gee Mom, gee Dad, can I ride my bike to the park?” That’s so difficult to do today with kids and the number of cars and the condition of a lot of our sidewalks today and with a lot of our new developments today we don’t even build sidewalks. So it’s so important for us to look at our kids and get them away from in front of the TV set and computers and get to the parks or get to places where they can have an adventure, and yet get back home safely, go there with their friends, enjoy the programs. Park systems around the country today have better programs than they ever had in our life and yet kids can’t get there oftentimes until a parent comes home and takes them. And we see ourselves as connecting our ball fields and sports activities and pools and programs at recreation centers and programs at the YMCA’s and all the things that are out there in our community. We have a wonderful art center here, the Indianapolis Art Center that has incredible art programs there and especially in the summertime for kids to learn some art skills and perspectives and everything else. These are important to connect to these neighborhoods instead of these kids waiting for Mom or Dad to come home and in the case of single households today, it’s so difficult for all of that to work and yet give the kids an adventure of getting out on the trails and getting there knowing they have to be home at 6:00 for dinner or else and things we grew up with kids are often missing.
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