10 questions with IndyGo coach operator Will Hazen

This piece is part of our INDYtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

Will Hazen has been driving for IndyGo for about a year + a half and he comes from a long line of transit drivers, starting with his great grandfather’s role as a line superintendent for Santa Fe Railway. Since he started his career, he’s received a ROSE Award for his service to the biking community — with his own money, he’s handed out bike lights to bus passengers in an effort to curb bike accidents. He’s also a collector of transportation memorabilia, including a large number of historic images of Indianapolis streetcars.

We asked Will 10 questions about public transportation, local restaurants, and his dream job. Keep reading to find out how he spends a perfect day in Indy. 

What would your ultimate goal or dream job be?

What I’m doing now, to be honest. It’s a lot of fun. There’s no better office in the city, regardless of what other people think. It’s the best office and I get to interact with a lot of my neighbors on a daily basis. It’s such a rewarding place to be. 

What do you hope to see for the future of Indy’s public transportation system?

I really hope that we start to focus on transit-oriented development and build the development that we need along our bus lines to promote a healthy transit system and add services in that development like grocery stores and pharmacies. And focus on jobs in those corridors as well so that there are jobs along rapid transit lines and our local routes that people can get to from housing along those lines as well. 

You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which one is it and why? 

Steer Inn. The vibes are great. It’s so very 1960s and 70s and the food’s great too.

What were the last 3 things you did locally? 

I went to Dorman Street the other day with some friends and I went to the Steer Inn, and I bike a lot. That’s definitely been one of those things in the course of doing my errands and getting to work and just biking on the Michigan Street bike lane here and the Cultural Trail.

Describe your perfect day in Indy in the length of a Tweet (280 characters).

This is going to sound super boring, but my perfect days in Indianapolis are the days that I get up and I bike to work or take the bus to work and go drive some of my favorite routes like the 8, 3, 10, 11, 21, all those routes that run through my neighborhood. 

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about public transportation?

I think a lot of people feel like the bus is a last resort for the people who have no other option. I think it’s a misconception in many transit agencies too that most of the riders are there because they don’t have another choice. I think we saw during the pandemic how false that is. Because if those riders would have needed to be there, our ridership wouldn’t have dropped like it did. We have to focus on — no matter the circumstances — providing great service. Whether it’s frequency or customer service or just providing safe accommodations at bus stops for riders and making sure our stops are accessible to everyone who needs to go there, including the visually impaired and people with physical handicaps.

Name 3-5 other local leaders, influencers, or movers + shakers that inspire you.

Lane Wolf is probably the first one — Lane’s just awesome. Lane works for I believe DPW and is doing stormwater but is going to Ball State CAP for urban planning. But has been very involved with Bike Indianapolis and has been very passionate about making cycling safer in Indy. From here on out, it’s probably people from IndyGo: Trevor Preddy, Mike Nugent. They’re all in planning and passionate about improving how we do transit in Indianapolis. And I would say, in large part Inez Evans, who’s our CEO. She came from VTA out in California. It was pretty interesting for her to come out to Indianapolis, a city that’s chronically been underfunded for transit funding, and try to continue to advance transit here. I know that’s tough, but I think she’s fully up to the job and she’s been committed to improving how we do things. Sylva Zhang, who’s also at Bike Indianapolis. She’s a “bike mama.” It’s sort of her title. She’s one of those people who led the World Day of Remembrance for those we lost last year to road violence and she’s very committed to making cycling safer and infinitely better.

If you had to choose between bicycling and riding the bus, which one would you choose?

Oh, that’s hard. It depends on the weather to be honest. If it’s a nice day I definitely want to be on my bike but if the weather’s bad I want to be on the bus. It gives me a chance to interact with some really great people that ride with us. I’ve met authors and artists and people across the board that are also passionate about what they do and take the bus because it’s a convenient option for them. And they like it for the same reasons I like it. You get to interact with a lot of your neighbors. It’s sort of a community space. 

What are your thoughts on “Music In Transit,” the local music video project that takes place on an IndyGo bus?

I think our efforts to put music and transit and art and transit like we’ve done in the past few years are really great because I think it’s hard for people to look at a transit system and see the beauty in that. But when we bring local artists and turn our buses into a canvas or a stage I think that’s a really great opportunity. I look forward to seeing what the folks involved with that program do in the future. 

Do you think there’s an appetite for more public transportation?

I think public perception here — they’re definitely on board with our efforts to move forward and we saw that with the transit referendum. We had one of the strongest turnouts for that vote and I think it was over 60% of the vote. There’s definitely an appetite for more public transit. People want to be able to do what you can do in Chicago, which is just go outside and you don’t even have to check a schedule. Just go outside and the bus will be there in 10 minutes or less. I think people want to see that and I think there’s an appetite for the improvements we’re making.