Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Jessica Renslow's ICAT Interview for Public Transit Day

(This spring volunteers advocated for inclusive public transit on the state level. Our community builder was featured discussing shared mobility. Check out for more info.) 

Name: Jessica Renslow
Employment info (title & org):
Volunteer Community Builder, Take Bike the Streets (Small Business Owner, Almost Fairytales)

Brief overview of Take Bike the Streets 
Take Bike The Streets is a comprehensive program that involves community engagement, economic development and intergenerational environmental education. Our volunteers have committed to organize, decide and act upon projects that will profoundly change our Indiana’s future.The goal of Take Bike the Streets is to capitalize on our diverse active transportation needs and implement a multiphase project that makes cycling an accessible and enjoyable activity for all our community and our visitors. We believe in active transportation for all. 
(Check out for more info.) 

How does your work and personal life connect to public transportation? 
I have been blessed to have many positive experiences with public transit in my life. As a kid growing up in Gary and Hammond I road the bus and the train regularly. Before moving home in 2015 to manage a community initiative, I lived in Los Angeles for 9 years, before that Japan for 3 years and before that Italy for about a year. I experienced great public transportation and terrible transit as well. Now I commute regularly to Chicago for my business. I see how many of NWI’s residents and guests use our public transit and where we need help. Currently, I live in a Transit Oriented District in Gary. There are many positives to living in a TOD. I lived in a TOD in LA and saw the amenities it brought my neighborhood there, however I also saw the problems it brought as well. NWI needs to prepare itself for the economic impact of transit improvements to ensure that we promote universal design and transportation equity. We also need protections in place for our mom and pop businesses so that they can maintain their places of business. We definitely need a population infusion, but we need to also ensure that our legacy residents are not pushed out in the process. 

What are some of the programs, solutions and/or policies your organization is involved with to support better public transportation? 
We are involved on the local, state and national level concerning policy on complete streets, ADA compliancy and creating age friendly/ life-long communities. We promote critical mass efforts that showcase the need for universal design. We run the only bike shop in Gary, the Ken Parr Build a Bike, an expedition based learning bike camp called Northern Lights Eco Adventures, community slow rolls and we piloted NWI’s first accessible bike share. 

What are some key goals for Take Bike the Streets over the next few years? 
We want to have a regional dockless bike share that goes across Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties. We are working to promote connectivity to our public transit and how to link first and last mile access for residents and guests. As a city 19% of our 80,000 people within Gary depend on bikes, buses and trains as their only means to get around. Shared mobility is a growing trend nationwide and NWIndiana is a prime candidate for such a collaboration as we have 764,418 residents between, multiple business districts, universities, trains, buses and the nation’s newest national park all within our tri county region. Unfortunately you cannot take a bike on nor off at many of our train stations! When you also add the influx of seasonal tourists (3.6 million annually) we get across the National Lakeshore and lack of bike access 
 Northern Indiana is a prime location for a regional bike share. We need a company that believes in equity to take a chance on our diverse active transportation needs. 

Any statement you would like to provide to show support for increased funding to the Public Mass Transit Fund (PMTF) is welcome! 
Our buses do not run on Sundays and our bus access is limited. Expanding connectivity along with our green trails will improve the overall quality of life for all Hoosiers. As a community builder I have conducted numerous surveys with our community. Many folks stated that improved infrastructure and access to public transit would help them with the struggle to garner employment. Additionally, Lake County just lost almost half of our precincts. In Gary alone we went from 106 to 51 precincts, and we are losing an additional 28 polling places. Which means for a city that is 57 square miles and has an estimated 80,000 residents (of which 19% do not have access to cars) we are going to have a huge transit need for the primary and general elections. Supposedly, this was done to save money. An estimated $116,000 to be exact. Where is that money going? Some should go to transportation equity. We are an urban county but in many ways our transportation access needs mirror rural communities. 

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