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IndyGo CEO & President Inez Evans testified before the City-County Council’s Municipal Corporations Committee this week and was questioned about the launch of the five-month-old Red Line service and her plans for the construction of the companion Purple Line starting next year. 

Evans’ answers, honest though they were, brought little comfort to those who stood in opposition to the massive transit project that’s wreaked havoc on commuters and local businesses, stranded riders in freezing temperatures and imposed restrictions on where motorists are permitted to make left turns.

At the core of the Red Line’s problems is the fleet of electric buses, which have failed to meet their promised 275-mile range before requiring a charge.

Republican City-County Councilor Michael-Paul Hart asked IndyGo CEO & President Inez Evans is she was satisfied with the Chinese-built electric buses.

“Wow,” replied Evans. “Yes and no.”

“The total acquisition for the 31 buses was approximately $40 million,” said Evans. “A portion of that is federal dollars as well as our local commitment as well. We have not paid BYD for those buses. We have had them in our possession for over a year. They have requested payment but we have reminded them that they signed a contract with IndyGo to produce a bus that could go 275 miles. That bus is not doing that at this time.”

When the Red Line launched in the fall and the weather was warm, the BYD buses only averaged 200-250 miles between charges. Once the weather began to dip into freezing temperatures, the maximum distance on a single charge was far less.

Colder temperatures have a significant impact on the performance of the buses’ batteries and the heaters that pump warm air into the cabin further drain the vehicle’s power system. Future buses will require auxiliary diesel heaters, but existing buses cannot be retrofitted. 

When the buses are at the end of a charge, they need to be recharged at temporary charging stations because permanent charging stations at BYD’s expense have not yet been built, according to a report from Fox 59.

“That $4 million expenditure is on them,” said Evans. “It is not on IndyGo to put that permanent solution in place. We will wait until that permanent solution is in place to test to see that we can get 275 miles and not pull buses on and off the route. Once we have confirmed that we will and they have met all their other contractual things, then we can render payment but not until that time.”

Then there’s the issue of the new bus stations along the Red Line route, which are dirty, damaged, and in some cases, non-functioning.

Evans acknowledged the problems to the committee, citing faulty real-time signage for waiting riders, graffiti painted on the stops, the lack of daily cleaning schedules, the challenge to stock spare parts and the inability to centrally monitor heating and water service at the stations, according to Fox 59.

“I, too, have seen the stations and they are not up to the standard that I care to support,” said Evans.

Evans was also grilled about ridership, which declined 47{5caa4daa0546d7d8fa2e1adbee12db580b4ef6b6a09d0b2ac37c5e2faf3d735c} from September to December.

“I can’t imagine that you’re hitting the goal of 11 thousand riders a day,” Republican Councilman Brian Mowery asked Evans.

“The 11 thousand riders a day was a combination of the Red Line plus the grid network redesign being put in place,” said Evans, referring to IndyGo’s planned replacement of its spoke-and-hub system of routes with a grid system. “As we have discussed just recently that the redesign is not going to go into place until June, so that is when both of the systems were put together for that 11 thousand, sir.”

Yet despite all the challenges with the Red Line – challenges that have yet to be resolved – IndyGo is plowing ahead with plans to commence construction on the Purple Line in 2021, a companion route that will connect Lawrence with East 38th Street via North Post Road and then eventually hook up to share the Red Line route on Meridian Street to downtown.

“The Purple Line represents a significant improvement for our riders,” Evans told the committee.

Not if you don’t have working buses, permanent charging stations, and riders, Ms. Evans. 

WIBC host Tony Katz offered a response to IndyGo CEO and President Inez Evans Friday morning. Click below to check it out.