Chesterton Tribune



NICTD board takes step to order 26 new rail cars for South Shore

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The Board of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) approved NICTD General Manager Mike Nolan to release a request for proposals for 26 new rail cars at its meeting yesterday.

Nolan reported the 26 new cars will have higher seating capacity, which enables NICTD to replace 32 cars that will be redirected for the West Lake Corridor with the new cars. “I think our customers will appreciate them. Combined with the rehab of 41 of our rail cars, with the completion of this rolling stock acquisition, our fleet’s going to be in great shape,” Nolan said.

Nolan anticipates getting the proposals and recommending “a well-balanced, competitive proposal” by the middle of next year.

In other business, the Board approved a resolution banning the use of vape devices and e-cigarettes on all train cars, stations and platforms, and restrooms. Using these devices is still allowed in parking lots and designated areas, where users must stand at least eight feet away from the building, per State law.

West Lake Corridor/Double-tracking

Nolan reported the West Lake Corridor Project is moving forward since the General Assembly doubled the state’s investment in West Lake Corridor and double-tracking by dedicating $185 million with a potential for another $20 million in the 2019 budget bill.

An RFP for the West Lake Corridor project has been released to three major construction/engineering firms. Nolan anticipates receipt of the proposals in early December and plans to make a recommendation at the Board’s January meeting.

Nolan reports the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has been in touch since NICTD requested entry into the federal grant engineering phase for the FTA’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program for the double-tracking project.

The Double Track Northwest Indiana Project will add a second set of tracks between Gary and Michigan City in hopes of better efficiency for a total cost of $465 million.

Nolan reported NICTD and FTA staff will work together on a detailed risk review before the project can be green-lit. Nolan hopes engineering can start mid-November. In the meantime, NICTD is working on the 264 property acquisitions required for the project and coordinating local funding packages. Nolan said those at the FTA are especially excited about the safety enhancement that will come as part of double-tracking--every crossing in Michigan City will have gates, lights, and bells.


Ridership is improving, despite a year of extreme weather with the polar vortex--which shut down the South Shore Line for five days--heavy rain, and extreme heat.

Ridership through June declined 4.3 percent from the year-ago period, with a raw decrease of 71,244 passengers. The most dramatic decrease in ridership occurred on weekend trains, with a 2.2-percent fall-off. May, April, and March 2019 saw decreases of 4.8, 5.6, and 7.3 percent, respectively, from their respective year-ago periods.

On-time performance

On-time performance is still lagging behind last year, with 83 percent of trains running on-time in June compared to 85.8-percent a year ago.

Weekday peak trains ran 91.6 percent on-time in June compared to 93.4 percent a year ago, and weekday off-peak trains ran 80 percent on-time compared to 85.3 percent a year ago. Weekend trains, however, ran 74.8 percent on time this June, which is an improvement over the year-ago 71.7 percent.

South Shore Line trains are considered late if they run more than six minutes behind schedule.


Positive Train Control (PTC) is a federally mandated system designed to stop trains automatically before certain human-error incidents can occur. Implementing PTC costs approximately $2.5 million per mile.

Currently, more than 1,500 South Shore trains, 112 trains per week, have operated under PTC on 61,000 track-miles with few issues. While almost every train was turning in trouble tickets at the time of the program’s launch, the incidence has decreased to approximately one in every eight trains.

Many of the issues are human factors or problems initializing trains at the underground Millennium Station, where wireless service is poor, though adjustments have been made and NICTD is working with Metra on the wireless issues.


Posted 8/6/2019




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