Chesterton Tribune



NICTD board approves pilot program to allow new bike cars next year

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The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District is planning to implement a pilot program next spring to remodel and equip three of its older rail cars on the South Shore Line with a new type of bicycle racks.

At Friday’s board meeting, NICTD General Manager Mike Noland demonstrated how the racks would work by supporting the bike tire and keeping it in place. The manufacturer is the Seattle-based Sportworks, similar those recently installed on Amtrak cars and the RTD which take up less space than traditional racks. Noland said NICTD is working with Sportsworks on the final design.

“This is new territory for us. It’s a new event,” he said.

According to Noland, the pilot program, which he guesses will start in April, will run on two of the cars in its normal train schedule, just on the weekends. The cars will run from Chicago to South Bend as normal, but stop only at stations with high level platforms so passengers can load their bikes safely and efficiently.

The cars with the racks will have a 3-2 seating arrangement and passengers will be able to sit close to where they store their bikes. Each car will carry 25 to 30 bikes. Each unit costs $500 to $600 but total installation costs are unknown at this time, said Noland.

NICTD currently has a “no bike rule” which, according to its website FAQ page is “for safety reasons and storage constraints.” Passengers going to Chicago are encouraged to look for bike rental companies once they get there.

Nolan explained that the South Shore cars are designed “to carry people and nothing more,” unlike the cars on the Chicago Metra that have some space suitable for bikes.

Support for bicycles on South Shore trains has been heard for years from groups like Save the Dunes. NICTD and an advisory committee made up a different organizations recently did a public survey to gain the public’s perspective, which showed a growing desire for the service.

“We knew from our survey that there is a demand,” Noland said.

Hearing input about how much the public would like to bring their bikes, NICTD hopes in about five years or so to line up new cars that would have room for about 90 bikes.

NICTD Board member and Lake County Commissioner Michael Repay said he appreciates all the work by the committee, but “there will be bugs worked out like everything else.”

Board president and Porter County Commissioner John Evans expressed confidence in the project saying “it’s really a marvelous thing to do.” He believes bikes will be popular but advised there will still be critics. “You’ll probably have people complain about the color,” he joked.

Ridership report

NICTD spokesperson John Parsons reported June’s ridership topped last year’s by 3.7 percent with 333,365 passengers. About 22,000 of those rode on June 18 for the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup celebration.

The cumulative ridership this year is 1.2 percent higher than 2014, but ridership has dropped on average over the weekends. June saw an on-time performance rate of 87.7, but it was affected by work projects and delays on the Metra.

Upcoming peak events are the Chicago Air and Water Show on Aug. 15-16, the Jazz Festival on Sept. 3-6 and Notre Dame football dates.

Meanwhile, more passengers are using the mobile phone app to purchase tickets this year, up from 2,344 in 2014 to 46,990. Vending machine sales are about the same while fewer riders are buying from ticket agents and conductors.

Bid approvals

In other business, the board approved several bid recommendations from the NICTD staff, including $212,240 in upgrades and improvements to the Dunes Park station. Larson-Danielson Construction of LaPorte will remodel the bathrooms in the station and administrative offices, along with ramp replacement on the north veranda entrance.

Other approvals:

-- A bid of $258,516 from Shaner Industries for Phase 3 continuation of the Catenary Upgrade Project between Michigan City and South Bend.

-- A bid of $562,253 from Bach-Simpson to upgrade 43 event recording units on the NICTD fleet to make them compatible with the upcoming Positive Train Control project required by the Federal Railroad Administration.

-- A bid from Impark for the parking lot lease at Hegewisch Station in the amount of $175,000 to be paid to the district, or $35,000 annually over 5 years.



Posted 8/3/2015




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