Chesterton Tribune



NICTD approves phased in 5 percent fare hike on South Shore

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Beginning on July 1, the cost of a one-way fare on the South Shore commuter railroad will increase 25 cents. And it’ll increase again, by the same amount, one year later, on July 1, 2017.

The phased-in 5-percent fare hike--a 2.5 percent bump in the first year, another 2.5 percent in the second--was approved by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s Board of Trustees at its meeting Friday morning.

Riders boarding at Dune Park Station and taking the train to Chicago will see the cost of a one-way ticket rise from $8.00 to $8.25 ($8.50 on July 1, 2017). Commuters will see their monthly cost rise from $228 to $233.75 ($239.75 on July 1, 2017). Monthly ticket prices will be effective on all July monthly tickets going on sale in mid-June, NICTD said.

Revenues generated by the fare increase--which General Manager Michael Noland estimated at $1 million annually when the full 5 percent has kicked in--will be used strictly for infrastructure work and grant matches. “Just capital projects,” Noland said. “No salaries. No supplies. Just brick-and-mortar.”

There is some urgency to the hike, Noland has noted, inasmuch as the $80 million it will cost to install the federally mandated positive train control system will exhaust NICTD’s bonding capacity.

A total of 21 people attended a series of public hearings on the proposed hike earlier this spring, most of whom supported the increase, Noland said on Friday. Meanwhile, 33 others submitted written comments, mostly objecting to it, on several grounds: that it follows too closely on the heels of last year’s hike, for example, and that there’ve been no service improvements since the 2015 hike.

Noland took issue with both. In the last year alone, he said, NICTD has introduced the popular Sunrise Express; it’s installed WiFi in all train cars; and it’s introduced a pilot bikes-on-trains program. NICTD is also eyeball deep right now in the installation of higher-speed universal crossovers at three locations, which Noland said will make South Shore travel both safer and more efficient.

New Family Policy

In other business, the board voted unanimously to significantly liberalize the South Shore’s family policy.

Under the old policy, one child under 14 could ride free with each adult on off-peak weekend and all weekend/holiday trains. Under the liberalized policy, up to three children may now ride free with each adult, again on off-peak and all weekend-holiday trains.

The new policy will take effect on July 1.

Pilot Quiet-Car Program

The board also voted unanimously to implement a pilot quiet-car program, under which the last car on all morning and afternoon rush-hour trains will be a designated quiet-car.

That means that, in that car, riders’ cell-phone ringers and notifications must be turned off; electronic devices muted; conversations kept brief and whispered; and headphones or earbuds turned down. Persons wishing to take a call or have a conversation will be expected to move to another car.

Noland did say that neither the conductors nor the Transit Police will actually be enforcing quiet-car rules. On the contrary, he said, “peer pressure is what generates success of performance.”

RTA Transit Benefit

Meanwhile, Noland took a moment once again to promote the RTA Transit Benefit Program, under which commuters can now save up to 40 percent more on their commuting costs, when their employer is enrolled in the program.

Because the money commuters set aside for commuting costs doesn’t count as income, the program allows it to be automatically deducted from commuters’ paychecks. That means, in the long run, they’re taking home more money by paying less in income taxes.

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Posted 5/23/2016





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