While GPTC Has to Beg for Money, RDA Spends $18K on Barely Used Bike Program

Taxpayers subsidized bicycle rides in Miller to the tune of $86.54 per ride

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January 4, 2018-The enabling statute for the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority specifically directs them to fund regional busing and transportation.  Despite that, Gary Public Transit was faced with the risk of elminating several regional routes late last year when the failed RDA refused to provide financial assistance.  To make matters worse, the Gazette has now learned that the failed RDA was spending $18,000 for a bike rental service in Gary’s Miller section while steadfastly refusing to comply with their own statutory mandate to assist in regional bus service.

According to Jessica Renslow, who was paid $25,000 from a grant given to Legacy Foundation by the RDA, the Zagster Bike Rental Program kicked off in June, 2017 at a cost of $18,000.  Ten bikes were available for rental at four locations throughout Miller.  208 people rented bikes from June until the program “hibernated” in November 2017, according to Renslow.  Not counting any of Renslow’s salary or other administrative expenses, the cost per bicycle rented comes out to about $86.54 ($18,000/208=86.538).  That is over 86 TAX DOLLARS for every ride on the Zagster bike service at a time when Gary Public Transit was struggling to get people to work.

To make matters worse, there is nothing in the grant from RDA to Legacy Foundation which indicates they are going to spend $86 to allow someone to hop on a bike for an hour or so.   The press release that was issued at the time of the $75,000 grant stated “RDA Partners with Legacy Foundation to Plan for Transit Oriented Development in Gary.”  Despite the fact that RDA conscribes tens of millions in tax dollars every year, it is difficult to show how paying $86 for someone to ride a bike advances the discussion regarding transit oriented development.  (you can see the complete press release Here-RDA_Board_Meeting042116_Legacy )

It is not even clear if the statute governing the authority of the RDA allows them to give grants to a not for profit organization.  RDA powers are supposed to be limited to the following:

Sec. 1. The northwest Indiana regional development authority is established as a separate body corporate and politic to carry out the purposes of this article by: (1) acquiring, constructing, equipping, owning, leasing, and financing projects and facilities for lease to or for the benefit of eligible political subdivisions under this article; (2) funding and developing the Gary/Chicago International Airport expansion and other airport authority projects, commuter transportation district and other rail projects and services, regional bus authority projects and services, regional transportation authority projects and services, shoreline development projects and activities, and economic development projects in northwestern Indiana; and (3) assisting with the funding ofinfrastructure needed to sustain development of an intermodal facility in northwestern Indiana. As added by P.L.214-2005, SEC.73. Amended by P.L.47-2006, SEC.54

I may be wrong, but no where in that statute do I see the authority to take money from Gary, Hammond and East Chicago and give it to a not for profit organization.  We have requested records from the RDA but in the past they have consistently delayed or flat out refused to provide requested records.

The Miller Spotlight group will be looking for another $18,000 for next year’s bike share program.  Do you think the RDA should give them another $18,000?  Please let us know in the comments?

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Comments

  1. richb Reply

    Bicycle riding isn’t “transportation” in the sense that autos, buses and trains are. They shouldn’t use transportation funds to fund bicycles. I do know a few people may use them to get to work, but you can count those people on one hand. Bike trails are mostly recreational in nature, so that means the tax funds used should come from recreational funding like a park district.

  2. Rick Reply

    Well Zagster was NOT advertised anywhere that I saw!
    Had I known, I might have went out to Miller for a ride.
    Such is the way of the world or at least NWI.
    Only a few knew!

  3. Linda Reply

    Yes. I support the grant for the bicycle program. A creative program and a good investment for the future.

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