The South Shore is forecasting stable levels of service and fares for 2013
although minor adjustments are possible, but a big management change likely
will take place within the next 18 months, it was announced Friday.
Directors of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which
owns and operates the South Shore, adopted a contract amendment for
long-time general manager Gerald Hanas detailing terms if he chooses to
retire between Dec. 31, 2013 and July 31, 2014.
After the meeting Hanas confirmed that’s his current plan; he will be 65 in
2014. “This isn’t the kind of job you can give two weeks notice.”
Upon retirement Hanas would receive additional compensation equal to 2
percent of all fees paid to NICTD by the Chicago South Shore and South Bend
freight railroad in 2012 or 2013, whichever is higher. Hanas helped
negotiate the current contract between NICTD and the separately held freight
line, which uses NICTD trackage.
He also would be entitled to keep in effect his family health insurance
coverage under NICTD for 12 months after retirement.
Mark Yagelski, a LaPorte County Council member, suggested beginning the
preliminary search for Hanas’ replacement. He will be joined by NICTD
chairman St. Joseph County Council member Mark Catanzarite and Lake County
Council member Christine Cid.
St. Joseph County Commissioner Robert Kovach said more people should be
involved. Porter County Council member Laura Blaney, who will become the
south-district County Commissioner Jan. 1, said the search committee can be
expanded in 2013. NICTD member John Evans, north-district Porter County
Commissioner, was absent.
Hanas has been involved with NICTD since its inception in 1977 when the
public agency was formed to fund South Shore operations after the owner
threatened a total discontinuation of service. Hanas was hired by NICTD in
1978 as a project manager and became general manager in 1982. Eight years
later NICTD purchased the passenger service and the 90-mile railroad’s major
Hanas told the Chesterton Tribune he hopes his time at NICTD will be
remembered as a recapitalization of the entire railroad that’s still
NICTD has invested approximately $400 million to rebuild and reinvent the
South Bend-to-Chicago line, which is unusual in that it operates across two
time zones. Over the last 12 months NICTD’s carried 3.7 million passengers.
The 2013 business plan approved by the NICTD board reflects a $13.7 million
net deficit before state funding is applied to cover the shortfall.
Operating costs are set at approximately $40 million or 4.2 percent over
2012, said Hanas, who noted cost-containment measures will continue.
Passenger fares are anticipated to generate $18.7 million next year; a NICTD
fare increase may be needed to maintain similar fare structures in
overlapping zones if Metra in Illinois hikes its fares.
In 2013 NICTD plans four major capital projects, among them spring
construction of a high-level boarding platform at Porter County’s Dune Park
Station on U.S. 12 that will reduce dwell time and allow use of all train
In other business Friday:
• The board unanimously approved refinancing at a lower interest rate a
previous $32.1 million bond issue that funded purchase of new train cars.
Doing so will save about $2.8 million in interest and allow the bonds to be
• Passenger Geof Benson of Beverly Shores said he understands there would be
hurdles to address but he’d like to bring bicycles on the trains.
Catanzarite said some share Benson’s desire and the request will be
researched again, but previous discussions determined it wasn’t feasible at
• Hanas said costs are being totaled to submit a bill to NIPSCO for
sigificant damage NICTD equipment and structures sustained Oct. 14 when a
NIPSCO conductor splice failed near Dune Park sending current through South
Shore rail back to two substations. Train service was disrupted on two days
and the Furnessville substation was off line 46 days affecting train speeds.
• Saturday, Dec. 8 and possibly Dec. 15 a special Chicago shoppers eastbound
train will depart Millennium Station at 4:25 p.m. terminating in Michigan
City. Monday, Dec. 24 and 31 trains will run on a weekday schedule. Tuesday,
Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 will be weekend/holiday service on Christmas and New
• Retiring NICTD board members were thanked for their service: Lake County
Commissioner Frances DuPey, over 20 years; LaPorte County Commissioner
Barbara Huston, seven years; and Kovach, six years. All commended the NICTD
board for being very professional. Blaney will be leaving as the Porter
County Council appointment.
• Hanas thanked NICTD chief operating officer Robert Griffin for his 14
years of service.
• Yagelski apologized to the ridership for delays during construction
projects, but good things are coming when the work is completed, he added.