Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

South Shore ridership creeps up in April

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In April the South Shore posted its first monthly ridership increase since December 2008, but with so many variables in play railroad officials said Friday it’s too early to break out the champagne.

June 1 a 2 percent across-the-board fare increase takes effect as well as changes to the family fare policy, both anticipated to raise about $350,000 this year, yet higher operating costs and uncertain state and federal funding are prompting South Shore management to consider consolidating/eliminating three off-peak weekday trains to save money.

Changes wouldn’t take place to morning Trains 14 and 114 and afternoon Train 211 until at least this fall after Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District directors discuss the proposal July 30, according to NICTD general manager Gerald Hanas.

NICTD carried 320,714 passengers in April compared to last year, a 1.3 percent increase. The railroad averaged 12,942 passengers per day and off-peak travel last month also rose by 4.7 percent buoyed by stronger-than-expected ridership during the first series of Cubs home games.

The news was even better for ridership into and out of the South Bend Regional Airport station that posted an 8 percent increase, its largest April total in three years.

NICTD marketing director John Parsons said total 2010 ridership year-to-date is down 3 percent. “We’re trying to dig ourselves out of a pretty bad January.”

NICTD’s Boris Matakovic said new ticket vending machines being installed at South Shore stations are well-received by passengers. As of this week nine stops including Dune Park in Porter County will have the new cashless machines that take credit/debit cards. One-trip or multiple rides can be purchased.

Eventually it’s hoped up to 85 percent of the $4.3 million in annual cash sales collected by train conductors can be eliminated by the use of ticket machines.

Hanas reported signal equipment has been received and is being wired related to planned construction of NICTD’s $15 million Kensington bypass track and realignment at the chronic Illinois bottleneck.

Establishing a second parallel route there will help reduce NICTD’s travel time into Chicago by eliminating holds at the critical intersection through which 180 commuter and freight trains pass each day. Actual construction is slated to begin later this year.

NICTD board members comprised of elected officials from Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties adopted a goal to award 10 percent of its contracts for federal fiscal years 2011-13 to businesses owned by certain races, nationalities and women.

It was reported 10.4 percent of the NICTD contracts in 2009 went to Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) companies. NICTD must participate in the DBE program to maintain its eligibility for federal funds.

NICTD chairman LaPorte County Councilman Mark Yagelski said NICTD purchases a wide variety of goods and services and he encouraged DBE companies to apply. “We’ll walk you through the process.”


Posted 5/24/2010





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