Their numbers were few but their opposition unanimous Wednesday when it came
to a proposed 2-percent South Shore fare hike.
The fares would jump by that amount across-the-board effective June 1 in
each of 2010 and 2011. The last fare increase was 2 percent in both 2006 and
If approved a one-way ticket from Dune Park and Portage/Ogden Dunes in
Porter County to Millennium Station in Chicago would increase from $6.65 to
$6.80 and to $6.95 next year.
Three Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District management officials
hosted a public hearing last night; the comments received will be forwarded
along with input from four other hearings to the NICTD board, which will
vote on the fare increase March 26.
Krista Day Zoladz of Hobart said she and her husband Dennis pay NICTD $3,828
a year as daily riders but questioned what commuters will get in return for
higher fares. She also cited a decline in South Shore service and asked the
NICTD board to address her concerns.
Among them, that the train cars and parking lots are not adequately
maintained; that the 14 new bi-level cars delivered last year are still not
working properly and should have been researched further; and that younger
NICTD collectors and conductors lack customer-service skills.
“Each of us has to make concessions due to the economy,” said Krista Zoladz.
“Why not make it more conducive for riders to get to their destinations in
Chicago with more job opportunities until the economy picks up?”
Zoladz felt that increasingly South Shore riders are opting for the
Valparaiso-based Chicago Dash bus service, car pooling or driving their own
personal car into the city each day. “I understand in trying times you have
a business to run, but there’s so much room for improvement,” she stated.
Both Zoladzes expressed frustration over rush-hour trains overcrowded with
sometimes-inebriated Chicago Cubs fans following a home game. NICTD general
manager Gerald Hanas said it’s impossible to predict when the games will end
and which trains fans will ride.
He also noted that while some individual cars may be standing room only,
other cars on the same train can have available seats.
NICTD marketing director John Parsons said seating capacity has been
increased for major Chicago events and festivals to offset higher passenger
Regarding maintenance, Hanas said the train cars are cleaned nightly.
Dennis Metheny, Coolspring Township trustee in LaPorte County, said if
someone wants to ride the South Shore, they should pay for it. “You can’t
continue to fund a train that can’t sustain itself.”
At its Jan. 29 meeting the NICTD board was told management is exploring
salary and wage freezes, furlough days and service cuts as cost-cutting
measures to offset higher operating costs, a 7 percent South Shore ridership
decline and a $1.2 million drop in farebox receipts.
Metheny asked why none of the NICTD board members were present at
Wednesday’s Dune Park hearing. Hanas said some board members attended
previous hearings at other locations, and members generally get a lot of
input from passengers.
Porter County’s representatives are County Commissioner John Evans and
County Council member Sylvia Graham.
Both Metheny and Krista Zoladz asked about the new $50 million bi-level
train cars that were put into rush-hour service, then removed when auxiliary
power system problems developed. Hanas said the cars now are in daily
service during off-peak hours as numerous technicians work to resolve the
occassional power problems.
“It’s a waste of taxpayer’s money or poor planning on somebody’s part,” said
Metheny, who also rapped that the trains came from a Japanese manufacturer.
Hanas said the cars were assembled in Wisconsin and conform to Buy America
In addition to the 2-percent rate hike, changes to the family fare policy
are proposed. Currently up to two children age 13 or younger may ride free
with each parent/adult on off-peak weekday and all weekend/holiday trains.
If approved, the number of children riding free would be reduced to one
child per parent/adult.
Also, weekday eastbound Train 11 departing Millennium Station at 3:58 p.m.
would be designated a peak rush-hour train requiring all children age 13 or
younger to pay a half fare. This was in response to daily commuters who said
they couldn’t find a seat when children were riding for free.