Central Indiana’s work commute origins

guest blog by Jennifer Gebhard, Program Manager, CIRTA/Commuter Connect

If you look at Central Indiana commuting over time, you’ll find that a lot of our choices for getting to work have been reactions to events and conditions surrounding us … war, for example, or economic upheaval.

Now we find ourselves making another set of adjustments based on outside factors. But maybe, once this current global upheaval passes, we can be proactive about commuting rather than reactive.

In the early 20th Century, most central Indiana residents traveled to work by walking, riding a streetcar or taking the interurban, a railway system that connected Indianapolis with outlying communities statewide. The tracks on which the streetcars and interurbans operated were pulled up and paved over decades ago, but we still see remnants of them today.

Streets on the Southside are named for numbered stops along the interurban line that ran down Madison Avenue: Stop 10, Stop 11, Stop 12 and Stop 13. And the clusters of businesses at intersections along College Avenue are there because of the streetcars that once ran north and south along that route. Think Broad Ripple Avenue, Kessler Ave., 54th and 52nd streets.

As car ownership became more popular in the following decades, interurban routes and streetcars were abandoned. Throughout the 1930s, electric rail lines abandoned. The last interurban car left Traction Terminal in downtown Indianapolis in 1941.

A few years later, carpooling became prominent, as the federal government promoted it as a rubber- and fuel-rationing strategy during World War II. War-time posters used several angles to promote carpools, including the hyperbolic, “When you ride ALONE, you ride with Hitler” headline.

When the war was over, and American manufacturing shifted from producing war-related items to consumer goods, we responded by returning to our own cars. In 1950, America produced more than 8 million cars; by 1958, there were more than 67 million cars registered in the United States, more than twice the number at the start of the decade. By 1959, Henry Ford’s goal of 30 years earlier – that any man with a good job should be able to afford a car – was achieved. In the following years, we responded to the development of the national highway interstate system by commuting longer distances, often alone.

And then the energy crisis of the 1970s sent us scrambling back into carpools, trying to conserve fuel and reduce the pain of skyrocketing gas prices. According to the Census Bureau, by 1980, roughly 23.5% of Americans were carpooling … but then gas prices fell, disposable incomes rose and government support of alternative commuting options evaporated. By 2011, the carpool rate had fallen to 11%.

Now we face a new influence on commuting patterns: COVID-19, which, for many of us, has essentially brought commuting to a halt as we work from home thanks to internet connectivity. Telecommuting has become our primary form of commuting. So, once again, our commuting habits have been shaped by outside forces.

But maybe it’s time for all of us proactively choose the best commuting option rather than submitting to the conditions. Obviously, we at Commuter Connect encourage people to choose to get to work in ways that don’t involve each of us driving separately in our own cars. And we’re working to make that easier.

These days we promote carpooling in Central Indiana by making it easier with technology. The Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority (CIRTA) offers several commuting supports including the Commuter Connect website, which provides free accounts to upload your commute information and find carpool matches, bus and connector routes, bike-riding buddies and other means to share the ride to work. It also allows you to track “green commutes” to measure the money you save and emissions you reduce.

So, let’s spend this time when we’re essentially not commuting to plan for the day when we start commuting again. Let’s look forward to spending more time with people by commuting together. And let’s make the next milestone in our commuting history one that contributes to cleaner air, easier commutes and a stronger sense of community.

Prepare for the return to public interaction by signing up for a Commuter Connect account and planning for commuting partners for when the crisis lifts. Share the ride and return to a “new normal” that’s even better than the old one.


What Kind of Events Does the Festival Want?

Spirit & Place wants unique events that engage the mind and heart. We want events that invite reflection and discussion related to the yearly theme. We want you to partner with others so that multiple perspectives inform all aspects of your event. We want you to help create bridges of understanding. We want you to use the festival as an opportunity to stretch yourself creatively, collaboratively, intellectually, and spiritually.

We want your best. And, yeah, we know that’s a lot!

The Spirit & Place Festival provides you the opportunity to help build up our community. For 10 days, Central Indiana residents are invited to share in a common experience built on exploration of a yearly theme. You have the power to help bring people together in dynamic and meaningful ways all the while elevating the work you and other arts, humanities, religious, and/or community organizations do.

That’s the power of Spirit & Place.

When submitting your event application . . .


  • Be inventive and collaborative. We love to see innovation and risk-taking!
  • Put the theme front and center. Be clear on how your event is connected to the theme and how the audience will experience/reflect upon the theme. (2017 theme is POWER.)
  • Demonstrate your capacity. Challenge yourself to create something unique, but keep it focused enough so that you can accomplish your goals.
  • Remember the arts, humanities, & religion. Use one or more of these disciplines as a vehicle to help you explore your idea.


  • Force what isn’t there. If you’re stretching to make a theme connection, don’t.
  • Ignore your audience. Invest the time in really talking about the needs, wants, and values of the audience you hope to attract.
  • Get lost in language. The application questions have word limits for a reason: To force succinct explanations. Be descriptive, but direct. Compelling, but concise.

Check out our partner resources for guidance as you plan your event and do not hesitate to contact us for assistance at festival@iupui.edu.

Remember, event applications are due Friday, April 21 at 5p.m.!

LINKS: Partner Resources: http://www.spiritandplace.org/Festival.aspx?access=Partners



Spirit & Place Selection Committee Spotlight


It will be a few more weeks before we officially announce this year’s lineup for this year’s Spirit & Place Festival, but today we’re giving you some insight into how events were chosen. During Indiana’s bicentennial year in 2016, Spirit & Place Festival explores the definitions of “Home” as a place, a space, and an idea. Some submitted events fit exactly with the more literal interpretation of home, but as past Spirit & Place Festival attendees know, the multiple interpretations of the theme is what makes this Festival unique.

Organizations or individuals interested in submitting events for this year’s Festival submitted an application that answers questions related to the design of their event, the goals of the event and collaborators. After those applications are submitted to Spirit & Place, the volunteer selection committee came in to discuss events and make the final decision about event inclusion.

The selection committee is made up of individuals representing a variety of ages, races and professional backgrounds in Central Indiana. Some individuals have been involved with the committee and Spirit & Place for years, while other committee members provide new voices and perspectives. Each event is evaluated on its individual design and how it fit into the Festival as a whole.

According to veteran committee member Heather Hall, “Spirit & Place is a fantastic opportunity for neighborhoods, faith centers, community groups, and arts organizations to creatively collaborate in showcasing their stories within the framework of the festivals theme. I continue to participate in the Spirit & Place selection process because it is a unique opportunity to see Central Indiana communities through the lens of the arts, humanities, and religion.”

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The Festival is a platform for experimentation, celebration and reflection for Central Indiana residents. Committee members took this into account as they chose events as well.

As new committee member Uroosa Khan says, “Spirit & Place … amplifies the Hoosier voice and it is the core and heart of who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re headed. It is a celebration of the light within us. I was honored to serve on the selection committee to help find the brightest of these voices.”

The 2016 Spirit & Place Festival will run November 4-13, 2016. Stay tuned for an official announcement of events that will be included in the 2016 Festival in the next few weeks!

What Does the Festival Want?

By Erin Kelley


The question I hear the most when individuals and organizations begin planning their Spirit & Place Festival application is, “What does the festival want?”

We want unique events that engage as broad of a swath of the public as possible in reflection and discussion of the yearly theme. We want you to partner with others so that multiple perspectives inform the content of your event as well as its format and design. We want you to help bridge new understandings between people so that they might feel more connected to Central Indiana—our shared “place.” We want you to use the festival as an opportunity to stretch yourselves creatively, collaboratively, intellectually, and spiritually. We want your best.

And, yeah, we know that’s a lot!

After digesting all those festival “wants,” I think it is also useful for community partners to step back and ask themselves what they want.

  • What do you want to give?
  • What do you want to get?
  • Who do you want to reach through this event?
  • Why do you want to reach this audience?
  • What is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you want to achieve by being in the Spirit & Place Festival?

Taking the time to think about and discuss these questions is an important first step in identifying how you and your partners might positively impact the community, as well as your own organizations or creative endeavors, through the festival.

As you begin your planning process, please make use of the partner resources we have available on the Spirit & Place website that can help you dig into these questions. And never hesitate to contact us for assistance at festival@iupui.edu.


Ask themselves what they want: http://www.spiritandplace.org/spwebresources/2016/PART%202%20Audience%20&%20Achievements.pdf

Partner Resources: http://www.spiritandplace.org/Festival.aspx?access=Partners