Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

South Shore raises weekend fares in slumping economy

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Adult South Shore commuters riding weekend and holiday trains will have to dig deeper into their pockets beginning Nov. 22, the same day the new weekend train schedule takes effect.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District on Friday voted 7-1 to rescind a promotional fare break in effect since 2003.

With average weekend/holiday ridership down 10.4 percent so far this year due to the sluggish economy, NICTD marketing director John Parsons said the railroad is looking to restore some of that lost revenue.

He told NICTD directors the South Shore is on target to carry between 3.8 million and 3.9 million passengers, down from 4.1 million in 2008. All categories of ridership are down.

After the meeting Parsons said there’s no estimate how much more money the South Shore will bring in with the higher weekend/holiday fares. From Dune Park and Portage/Ogden Dunes stations in Porter County, a ticket will jump from $5.50 to $6.65 to ride to McCormick Place, Chicago museums and the Randolph Street Millenium Station.

That is the same one-way weekday fare passengers pay traveling between those stations.

Porter County Commissioner John Evans voted against rescinding the promotional fares. He wanted to leave the discounts in place for weekend commuters who are being inconvenienced due to service outages east of Gary as contractors replace brittle, aged catenary wires that provide traction power to the trains.

Three weekend outages have taken place with the remaining two this year slated for Oct. 10-12 and Oct. 31-Nov.2.

NICTD general manager Gerald Hanas said the catenary project will require scattered outages through 2011 as construction moves east to South Bend.

In addition to the catenary repairs, shuttle buses will be provided between South Bend and Michigan City during planned temporary construction outages Oct. 18 through Nov. 6 to repair/replace four South Shore bridges in LaPorte County.

In another construction matter, the board unanimously awarded its first bid related to a realignment of tracks at the Kensington interlocking in Illinois, which proves to be a bottleneck for South Shore trains that join the Metra tracks there.

Awarded to lone bidder Alstom of West Henrietta, NY was a negotiated $1,807,360 contract to resignal freight lines at Kensington; the South Shore bypass track will cross Canadian National/Illinois Central freight and Amtrak rails.

Hanas said the signal changes are absolutely essential to the $15 million bypass project, which is slated to start long-awaited construction next year.

It also was noted that NICTD has requested 100 percent funding through a highly competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or TIGER grant seeking $20,476,000 to realign South Shore tracks into the South Bend Regional Airport.

Parsons said grant awards should be announced in January.

Relocating the tracks to the west side of the airport will shorten track mileage by approximately 2.5 miles, reducing the number of rail grade crossings from 23 to seven and reducing travel time from South Bend to Chicago by almost 12 minutes.

 

Posted 9/28/2009

 

 

 

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