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Check back often for the latest news regarding Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

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  • 23 Aug 2017 7:58 AM | John Felts (Administrator)



    Since 2013, I have been intimately involved with Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana in various capacities, and I currently serve as the organization's president. YLNI, which was formed 12 years ago by a small group of 20- and 30-something professionals and now has more than 200 members, has a laser focus on its mission to attract, develop and retain emerging leaders through community, professional and social engagement.

    I am also heavily involved in the arts and culture community in our city and, along with being on many local event and organization committees, I currently sit on the board of directors at Cinema Center.

    I feel that I have a unique perspective on our community thanks to the combination of my various civic roles over the years, my widely diverse group of friends, and my professional network. Because of this, I have heard many ideas as to what attracts and retains talent within our region.

    One thing I can say is that while affordability is a factor in attracting and retaining individuals in our community, it's never mentioned first. The idea of affordability is always mentioned passively and it's never the focus – usually encapsulated in flighty statements like, “It's so affordable here, too.” “Too.” “As well.” “Secondary.”

    My personal conversations and experiences aside, YLNI has proven evidence that, at least locally, young people in our community prioritize amenities over affordability.

    When we've conducted surveys within our membership to gauge quality-of-life priorities, arts and entertainment, dining and retail, and vibrancy and inclusivity are consistently the most common responses. Through our polling, YLNI's membership consistently encourages our local and state governments to partner with local and regional economic development organizations to find viable solutions that would allow financing for economic development projects to come primarily from private funding, with support from public funds.

    Our polling has not indicated a desire for us to explicitly advocate for maintaining the low cost of living. In fact, our local demographic supports quality-of-life investments, including initiatives such as the most recent local income tax increase.

    While it may be beneficial for northeast Indiana to advertise our region as an affordable place to live, going solely all-in on “affordability” is likely to fail. Outside of big metropolitan cities where the cost of living is high, our cost of living is comparable to other cities our size in our region, according to recent research by Niche. Even in those much larger cities, i.e., the Chicagos of the world, young people still flock because of the quality-of-life amenities offered.

    In order to stay competitive and increase our ability to attract and retain a diverse group of people, Fort Wayne needs to differentiate itself by investing in quality-of-life amenities.

    According to the Knight Foundation, it has been pointed out that “85 percent of millennials say they prefer urban-style living.” Large economic development projects in our city, such as the Riverfront development, The Landing, Parkview Field, Ash Skyline Plaza and Electric Works, among others, are quality amenities that add to the urban lifestyle.

    Like many other cities, Fort Wayne is looking to attract people right out of college. Many in this generation aren't planning to start families right away. They are seeking cities with opportunities to grow professionally and personally, with a vibrant urban setting being a main factor in their decision making.

    A new report from the anti-sprawl organization Smart Growth America and the real estate consultants at Cushman & Wakefield looked at companies that have made the decision to relocate to downtown areas in their cities between 2010 and 2015. They asked why they've made that choice and how they might empower others to follow suit.

    After conducting a survey of these 500 companies and interviewing executives at 45 of those businesses, they concluded that talent attraction and retention is the most common reason businesses decided to move to a downtown. Businesses just like those surveyed recognize that we need a vibrant urban lifestyle to attract and retain young people.

    YLNI members continuously express that we need a vibrant and diverse city to bring people here and keep them here. Without the investments we've made in our own downtown, and our community as a whole, we would continue to simply be an “affordable city,” and that would be the end of our story.

    I can confidently say that I would not be living in Fort Wayne today were it not for the quality-of-life improvements that we have invested in. One the biggest and most well-known of these improvements is Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne – a project that many looked down on, but it's now one of the crown jewels of our city.

    I can't imagine a Fort Wayne where we had merely rested on our affordability and failed to pursue projects that continue to take our city from good to great. I am proud of this community for its vision and willingness to challenge, and even move past, the naysayers, and I am looking forward to the continued growth and development in our future. I know I'm not alone in that. Ever onward and upward – I love Fort Wayne.

    Ryan Krueckeberg is president of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

    Published in the Journal Gazette on August 21, 2017 

    http://journalgazette.net/opinion/columns/20170821/affordability-is-nice-urban-amenities-vital

  • 02 Aug 2017 7:00 AM | Joel Crandall (Administrator)


    Join us for our next Hot Spot on Thursday, August 17 at Club Soda from 5:30-7:00 p.m.  We will recognize and meet the new YLNI Board of Directors!

    If you're new to Northeast Indiana or want to get more involved in our community, attending a hot spot is a great way to connect with a committee member or board member to discuss who we are. All are welcome - bring a friend!

    RSVP on Facebook
  • 29 Jun 2017 2:26 PM | John Felts (Administrator)



    Fifteen emerging leaders have been named to the 
    Board of Directors of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI), it was announced today.

    Effective July 1, Ryan Krueckeberg will begin a two-year term as president, and Savannah Robinson will serve as vice president.

    The Board of Directors, which meets monthly, is the governing body of YLNI that will guide the organization to fulfill its goals.

    ·Ryan Krueckeberg, President (Lincoln Financial Group)

    ·Savannah Robinson, Vice President (Barnes & Thornburg LLP)

    ·Sarah Verpooten, Secretary (Strahm Building Solutions)

    ·David Curry, Treasurer (Lake City Bank)

    ·Patrick Florea, Director at Large, Executive Committee (JH Specialty, Inc.)

    ·Abigail Zimmer, Vice President, Membership (Creative Financial Staffing)

    ·Kourtney Teegardin, Vice President, Leadership Development (Design Collaborative)

    ·Pone Vongphachanh, Vice President, Community Impact (Upstate Alliance of Realtors)

    ·John Felts, Vice President, Communications (City of Fort Wayne)

    ·Kelly Rentschler, Vice President, Social Programming (EASi An Aerotek Company)

    ·Chris Reeves, Vice President, Fund Development (ProFed Federal Credit Union)

    ·Vinod Vijayan, Director, Large of Technology (Eaton Corporation)

    ·Tim Zink, Director at Large, Living Fort Wayne (IPFW)

    ·Rena Burden, Director at Large, Leadership Development (Turnstone)

    ·John Foxworthy, Director at Large, Fund Development (Mahara Wealth Partners)

    The board's day-to-day activities include a variety of tasks, such as event planning, securing funding, and serving as advocates for the emerging professional demographic in our region. 

    "I’m honored to serve as the next president and feel privileged to lead our board of directors,” Krueckeberg said. “Our board is comprised of passionate and committed emerging leaders who are eager to help make a positive difference in our community.”

    Established in 2005, YLNI is a group of dynamic emerging leaders that aims to engage the community and make a positive impact in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area. The mission of the 2,500-plus person network is to attract, develop, and retain emerging leaders through community, professional and social engagement.

    To learn more about YLNI, the organization's board and committees, or how you can become a member of YLNI, visit ylni.org. 

  • 21 Jun 2017 2:02 PM | Kara Hackett (Administrator)


    Between the summer festivals, the TinCaps games, the outdoor concerts, food trucks and farmers markets, you might think things in Fort Wayne couldn’t get any better.

    But, if that is the case, then you would be sadly mistaken, my friend.

    This summer—perhaps more than any other—there are so many exciting things happening around town that it makes me want to sing.

    And since I can’t sing for you myself (lucky you), I’ve compiled a list of the city's five hottest recent headlines in the form of popular song lyrics.

    Enjoy.

    1. Straight Flowin’ on a Boat!

    Fort Wayne’s first authentic riverboat is officially cruisin’ down the big blue(ish) watery road (yeah). Her name is Sweet Breeze, and she’s offering river tours and private excursions as part of the city’s ongoing riverfront development plan. Yes, this means you can be on a boat like Leo right here in downtown Fort Wayne. This boat is REAL. So get your swim trunks and your flippie-floppies, and make a reservation at Fort Wayne Outfitters, sha-sha-shorty.

    Inspired by The Lonely Island, “I’m On A Boat.”

    The Full Story: http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/20170607/canal-boat-ready-to-cruise

    2. It’s Electric! (Boogie, Woogie, Woogie.)

    You can’t see it (because it’s not done yet). But you gotta know it (because it’s going to be freaking awesome). Fort Wayne’s former General Electric campus near downtown is getting fully renovated into a mixed-use, multipurpose metropolis of excitement. And it’s Electric! They’re calling the project Electric Works (boogie, woogie, woogie), and it’s likely to include a year-round indoor farmers market, housing, culinary classes, and more. The tentative timeline for completion is 2020. Ooh, it's shakin'!

    Inspired by Marcia Griffiths, “Electric Slide.”

    The Full Story: http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/20170614/food-plans-served-up-for-electric-works

    Read More: http://wane.com/2017/02/13/sold-buyer-secured-for-ge-campus/

    3. I love this bar.

    It ain’t too far. Come as you are. Two new neighborhood bars are open, making the Fort Wayne suburbs feel a little more urban. HT2, an offshoot of Indianapolis’s Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery, opened in late May on the southwest side of town as an upscale cocktail lounge. And the 07 Pub opened in early June as a hyper-local sports bar on the south side. Just walkin’ right through the front door of either place will put a big smile on your face. No cover charge. Come as you are. Mmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm.

    Inspired by Toby Keith, “I Love This Bar.”

    The Full Stories:

    HT2: http://www.news-sentinel.com/opinion/the-rant//restaurant_notes_toscani_pizzeria_closing_peach_truck_returning_with_juicy_deliveries_20170530?profile=1017

    07 Pub: http://www.journalgazette.net/food/the-dish/20170607/after-year-in-making-07-pub-now-open

    4. Please don’t stop the music.

    Baby, are you ready? Cause it's getting close. We’ve heard talk about the Clyde Theatre for years now, and it’s finally happening. Even Keels Holdings and Sweetwater Sound are teaming up to make Fort Wayne’s first mid-size music venue a reality at Quimby Village where we’ll all be rockin’ on the dance floor (because it’s a stand-up only venue). Just let the music play, and once it’s started, it’s likely to bring the entire Quimby shopping center back to life. Keep on rockin' to it.

    Inspired by Rihanna, “Don’t Stop the Music.”

    The Full Story: http://news-sentinel.com/news/local/Sweetwater-Sound-founder-gives-Clyde-Theatre-makeover--1-5M-boost

    5. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

    Caught in a landslide? It’s your escape from reality. ArtLink recently purchased a virtual reality (VR) headset and highly coveted Google Tilt Brush software that allows artists to paint in virtual reality. And they’re allowing anyone in our community to rent the equipment for virtually nothing! So open your eyes, put on your VR headset and seeeeee the world like you’ve never seen it before. If you’re just a poor boy, you can easy come, easy go, and use this ridiculously expensive software for the bargain price of $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers. Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia!

    Inspired by Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

    The Full Story: http://wboi.org/post/artlink-debuts-new-way-northeast-indiana-artists-create#stream/0

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    HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here.  It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas. HereSay@ylni.org


  • 01 Jun 2017 8:00 AM | Joel Crandall (Administrator)


    On June 15, John Stafford of IPFW and Michael Galbraith of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership will host a panel discussion on the Regional Development Authorities (RDA)

    The YLNI Community Engagement and Advocacy (CEA) committee invites all members to come learn about our local tax and the history and structure of the state’s statutory RDA. Stafford will lead a discussion on local taxes, while Galbraith will explain the purpose and goals of the RDA.

    In 2015, the Northeast Indiana RDA was formed to apply for funds available through the state’s Regional Cities Initiative, which seeks to make Indiana a magnet for talent attraction by funding transformative quality-of-place projects. 

    The discussion will take place in the Ventura Room on the first floor of the 1st Source Building from 4:30-5:30 p.m. 

    If interested, please RSVP to Ashley Spranger at ashley@neindiana.com. 

  • 25 May 2017 9:35 AM | John Felts (Administrator)



    Are you interested in improving your speaking and leadership skills?  Toastmasters is an internationally recognized organization with a proven curriculum that focuses on the development of presentation and leadership competencies. YLNI looking to gauge whether there are enough emerging leaders interested in forming a Toastmasters Club.  


    At least 20 interested people are needed in order to establish a club. If you’re interested and would like to learn more, please contact Leslie Snare at leslie@ylni.org or Savannah Robinson at savannah@ylni.org.

  • 18 May 2017 11:06 AM | Kara Hackett (Administrator)

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

    One of my greatest frustrations with public projects is how long they take to happen.

    I live near the GE Campus, and I attended a meeting about it where developers mentioned ideas for the space, like a public market where farmers and vendors could sell their goods.

    I visited a similar space at the West Side Market in Cleveland last year, and I thought something like that would be amazing in downtown Fort Wayne. Hearing people talk about it at GE, I realized it could finally happen here. Awesome.

    Then someone raised their hand asked that fateful question: When can we expect to see this project finished by?

    The developers looked at each other for a moment before offering a tentative timeline of five years for the completion of Phase 1. “Considering everything goes according to plan, of course.”

    Five years. In developer-time, that’s incredible. That’s breakneck speed. I get it.

    But in Kara-time, five years is still a long way away, and that’s what frustrates me.

    I know things take time. I know I have to be patient. I know there are processes and systems to work with. But at the end of the day, every year feels like a long time in your 20s, and every day that something isn’t happening here, the sparks of excitement grow a little dimmer.

    I’m constantly wishing there was a way I could speed things up. I want to enjoy more of this city while I’m still young—while I’m still living here and still have time to enjoy it. But even though a grand scale renovation of something like GE might just have to wait, there are other local projects that we can make happen faster.

    In mid-March, city councilmen Dr. John Crawford proposed an income tax increase that would expedite Riverfront Development and make our city more walkable with improved sidewalks and alleys. When taxes were capped in the past, Fort Wayne Community Schools lost part of its transportation budget, so some of the money is going to fix sidewalks for kids who can’t ride the bus anymore.

    Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: Who wants higher taxes? And the answer is probably nobody. But if you want to see things happen with Riverfront Development in time for us to enjoy them (or if you simply want our local economy to succeed), then this tax increase is something that you should seriously consider contacting your city councilmen about, and here’s why.

    Crawford’s plan calls for a .15 percent increase of our current income tax, taking it from 1.35% in Allen County to 1.5% (which is still below the Indiana average of 1.59%).

    Overall, this change would cost taxpayers earning an average household income of $49,000 a year about $6 per month, or $73 per year. (Lower incomes would pay less, and higher incomes would pay more, yada yada.) If the increase goes into effect—charging everyone an equal rate of .15 percent—it will raise up to $79-million for Riverfront Development and up to $40-million for neighborhood sidewalk projects.

    That said, the reason I’m urging you to consider this tax increase is more complicated.

    It’s not just about beautifying the rivers or starting Riverfront Development. Actually, Phase 1 of Riverfront Development is already fully funded, and it’s happening no matter what. It’s set to start later this year with a promenade and treetop walk along both sides of the St. Marys River downtown.

    But the kicker is, unless this tax gets passed, a nice river walk is all that’s it’s going to be for a long time, and it’s not likely to turn a big profit.

    Crawford’s tax increase would go toward making spaces for offices, housing, retail and cafes along the river where our local economy could start earning its money back. And what’s exciting about that to me is that it means our city isn’t going doing things halfway. We’re going all-in. And when the Riverfront is fully complete, that’s when it’s going to start generating buzz, attracting the nation’s top employees, and making this region attractive to people who want more than “a nice place to raise a family.”

    As a conservative councilman, Crawford is interested in boosting local business and private investments in our region, so he proposed this tax increase because Riverfront Development is estimated to reap about $1 billion in investments. That’s an insane return rate.

    But the reason I’m writing to you about this tax in such direct terms is that it’s going to take a ton of public support to get it passed, and the critics have already made their case loud and clear.

    Three city council members opposed Crawford's proposal, and even state representatives and a national advocacy organization called the AFP have butted in and spoken out against the tax, simply because it's a tax. 

    But as The Journal Gazette editorial board noted, "decisions about the future needs of our community need to be made by the people of Fort Wayne and the council and mayor they've elected."

    As someone who lives here and has a stake in this region's future, I urge you to consider the long-term benefits of going all-in on Riverfront Development now. 

    If you want to see public projects like this happen while we’re young, if you believe this place is full of potential, you should email or call your local councilmen sometime before the (likely) July 11th vote and give this tax your support.

    I know it’s a tax, and I know that sucks. But to me, it’s worth it because, honestly, it’s a race against the clock, and time is what’s at stake. When I consider staying here, I wonder whether I should keep hoping for things to happen, keep shouting into the wind, or if I should go somewhere else where people are already investing and things are already happening—while I’m still young and free and the world is full of opportunities.

    The opportunities are so…alluring.

    What are you waiting for?

     

    Contact Your Councilmen

    The Fort Wayne Common Council is nine elected members (one from each of the city's six council districts and three at-large representing everyone).

    At-Large

    Michael A. Barranda
    michaelbarranda@gmail.com

    At-Large

    John Crawford
    jncrawfordmd@gmail.com

    At-Large

    Tom Freistroffer
    freistrofferatlarge@gmail.com

    1st District

    Paul Ensley
    paul@paulensley.com 

    2nd District

    Russ Jehl
    russ@russjehl.com

    3rd District

    Tom Didier
    tdidiers5@frontier.com  

    4th District

    Jason Arp
    jasonarpcitycouncil@gmail.com 

    5th District

    Geoff Paddock
    geoffreypaddock@aol.com

    6th District

    Glynn Hines
    glynnhines@aol.com

    Written communications may also be directed to the City Council as a group or to individual Council members and mailed to the office of the City Clerk, Citizens Square, 200 E Berry St., Suite 110, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 46802.

    Attending a Meeting

    Public hearings on the income tax increase will be scheduled soon. Watch the city website for announcements.

    You can also voice your opinions at City Council Meetings on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in Room 35, Garden Level of Citizens Square Building. This is the time when citizens may address City Council as a group regarding any topic that is within the Council's authority. 

    ---------------------------------------


    HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here.  It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas. HereSay@ylni.org

  • 04 May 2017 7:52 AM | John Felts (Administrator)



    Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) is proud to announce that two popular summer events will once again take place in downtown Fort Wayne.

    The Living Fort Wayne Concert Series is back on May 31, June 21 and August 2 at Headwaters Park West along the St. Mary’s River. In its fourth season, the concert series celebrates local musicians, local food trucks, and our downtown rivers. The concert series will include the kick-off to Friends of the River’s new canal boat on May 31 and is part of Make Music Day Fort Wayne on June 21. All ages are welcome and admission is free.

    The YLNI Farmers Market returns for the season each Saturday from May 20 to September 9 at 302 East Berry Street. The market offers fresh local produce, plants, meats, baked goods, and unique homemade crafts. Every vendor is local, coming from Allen or surrounding counties. Live music and children’s activities will provide entertainment throughout the summer. More than 1,000 people visited the market each Saturday in 2016.

    “YLNI is excited to host two summer events that will attract thousands of residents and visitors to downtown Fort Wayne,” said YLNI President Stephanie Veit. “The concert series continues to grow each year and offers a unique, live music experience along our rivers. Our farmer’s market has become a Saturday morning destination for many people. It was recently named a top 10 farmers market in the state of Indiana, and we’re incredibly proud of that.”

    For more information on the Living Fort Wayne Concert Series and YLNI Farmers Market, contact VP of Communications John Felts at johnf@ylni.org.

  • 03 May 2017 2:52 PM | John Felts (Administrator)


    Barnes & Thornburg presents Emerge: The 2017 General Membership Event, YLNI’s premiere annual event where current members, potential members and established community leaders are invited to come together and celebrate the growth of our community and the accomplishments of our organization in the past year.

    This year’s event has been reinvented and renamed to encompass our mission to "attract, develop and retain emerging leaders through community, professional and social engagement" in just one powerful word, EMERGE.

    We are thrilled to have Stacey Holifield, owner of Levitate and boundary pusher, as this year’s Keynote Speaker. She will share her story about why she chose to come back to Fort Wayne and start her strategic communications business.

    Mark your calendars for Thursday, June 29th and join us at the beautiful new Ash Building Green Space in Downtown Fort Wayne from 5:30PM – 9:00PM. This event will be the perfect opportunity for you to connect with our various committees as well as enjoy food from Salsa Grille, beverages, yard games and live music from Will Certain.

    5:30 - 6:00 | Networking
    6:00 - 7:00 | GME Program & Keynote Speaker
    7:00 - 7:30 | YLNI Committee Tables
    7:00 - 9:00 | Music & Yard Games

    RSVP on Facebook

  • 23 Apr 2017 11:10 PM | Kara Hackett (Administrator)


    A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about community connections.

    I lived in New York for awhile during college, and I mentioned how using public transportation there was one of the main ways I felt connected to the city.

    Every morning, I’d wake up, walk to the subway, and push my way onto a train so full of people that I could hardly move. The community was literally squishing me.

    But in all seriousness, using public transportation and being around other people really does make you feel like you’re “a part of something,” and when my article came out, I got a call from Betsy Kachmar at Fort Wayne Citilink buses.

    Betsy wanted me to ride the bus for a day and see if it was something I was interested in doing more often.

    I’ve always been curious about Fort Wayne’s bus system. I rode the bus a lot in New York. But everyone does that, so it’s not unusual. In Fort Wayne, everyone drives their own cars. You a see a few random passengers waiting by the bus stop from time to time, but that’s it. Honestly, none of them ever really looked like me, so I figured I wouldn’t blend in very well.

    Riding the bus here was something that fascinated me, but it also made me uncomfortable.

    When the day came, I met Betsy at the Meijer on Illinois Road where we parked in the lot by the Garden Center. She said that lot usually stays empty, so if people want to park there and hop the bus downtown, they can do it easily. Tickets are only $3 for a day pass, and kids younger than 18 or seniors ride half price. You can either buy a daily or monthly pass online ahead of time, or pay per ride in cash on the spot.

    I thought that if I ever wanted a ride downtown on busy day of the Three Rivers Festival or something, maybe I really would ride the bus, so I didn’t have to park.

    Betsy explained that the buses have bike racks on front, too, so if I ever got adventurous and biked too far away from home, I could ride the bus back.

    That’s an idea, I thought.

    A few minutes later, the bus pulled up, and we got on. It wasn’t as busy as buses in New York, but it was still mostly full. The people seemed nice enough, and they mostly kept to themselves just like in the big city—reading newspapers, listening to music on headphones, staring out windows.

    We sat next to a guy probably in his late 40s named James. James was a regular rider. Betsy introduced me, and told him I was the girl who was going to write the article that convinced millennials they should ride the bus, too.

    I smiled about that, but inside, a realization started eating at me. Chances are, unless bus service times get a big boost, or all of my friends suddenly decide to start riding the bus, I’m not going to be the type of person who does this on a regular basis.

    The fact is, Fort Wayne is still very much a car city, and I have a car, and at the end of the day, it’s simply more convenient for me. People are creatures of convenience, after all. And even though riding the bus would do wonders for our environment and our community, most of us aren’t going to do it until it’s truly our best option.

    As I sat there, staring out the window, worrying about what I was going to write, James reminded me why buses are still important in Fort Wayne.

    “I ride the bus because I have to,” he said. “It’s the only way I can get to my doctors appointments.”

    I guess I always figured that the people who rode the bus here were the people who needed it, but it’s different when they’re sitting next to you, telling you about it to your face.

    As I listened to James, I stopped thinking about myself and other “young professionals” for a moment, and my mother’s voice came to mind: Maybe it’s not about you.

    Maybe as much as I wanted to find a reason why I, a healthy, young, middle class person in Fort Wayne might ride the bus on occasion, the fact is, the bus system in our city isn’t really meant for that yet. It’s meant for people like James—people who literally need it—and that’s why all of us need it, too.

    As much as I would love to do a good deed, and pick up people like James every morning to take them where they need to go, that’s not practical or efficient in my compact VW Jetta. So cities pay bus services like Citilink to provide public transportation for them, and it helps them remain active, contributing members of society.

    Betsy said the buses have fixed routes and flex routes, and while the fixed routes follow the courses you see marked on the Citilink website, the flex routes change every day according to the need. They’re primarily for physically or mentally disabled riders, as part of a service that all city bus programs have to provide in exchange for public funding.

    When people in need of transportation have no better way of getting to work or their doctors’ appointments, the bus is there for them.

    Maybe it’s not about you.

    As Betsy and I kept talking, she explained how buses used to be privately owned, and everyone used to ride them, even in cities like Fort Wayne. But as most working class citizens grew wealthy enough to afford their own autos, privately owned bus lines starting struggling, and companies like Citilink took over, seeking government funding to keep the buses running.

    Betsy and I talked about how public transportation is the way of the future because people are moving back downtown, and like it or not, our environment simply can’t bear the burden of privately owned vehicles forever. Eventually, we’ll all have to find more environmentally friendly ways to get around.

    But which comes first the chicken or the egg?

    Do you make the buses nicer and more convenient to entice new customers now, or do you wait until the customers reach a critical mass, and then grow as needed?

    Citilink seems to be choosing the latter (more practical) option. But the problem is, funding for the bus system we have now—the bus system people like James need—isn’t getting any better. Actually, it’s remained stagnant the last few years even though operation costs have increased. And with the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts, it’s likely to get worse.

    Indy’s bus lines could see major cuts, and Indiana's Amtrak is slated for cuts as well.

    Betsy is leery about what these changes might mean for Fort Wayne.

    “That’s so frustrating,” I said, staring out the window again. 

    But as I said it, another realization came to mind.

    Perhaps the reason public transportation is getting cut is because the people making those cuts are thinking like me. Maybe they're looking at the budget full of things the government is funding, and thinking: Public transportation? In cities like Fort Wayne? Who needs it? Everyone has cars.

    But the fact is, the people you don’t see every day, the people waiting at the bus stop, the people who don’t look like you or act like you or dress like you, the people you might be afraid to approach, do need public transportation. And realizing that is not necessarily a solution, but it might be a new way to start thinking about the problem. And if you think about it, maybe it's also part of the reason our community feels segregated. 

    For those of us who don’t need buses, it’s easy to forget that they even exist. 

    Ride the Bus

    If you’re interested in experiencing a bus ride for yourself, you can see the map of stops on the Citilink website. You can also purchase a bus pass there.

    Ride for Free

    If you are downtown or near the University of Saint Francis, you can take advantage of Citilink’s Cougar Express bus for free. It’s a complimentary service Citilink created for students that is open to all members of our community, as well. Just flag the bus down, and hop on.

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    HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here.  It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas. HereSay@ylni.org


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