Indiana Commuter Transportation District expects to submit its application
for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding for both the
double-tracking project and the West Lake Corridor project in plenty of time
to meet the Sept. 8 deadline.
So NICTD General
Manager Michael Noland reported to the NICTD Board of Directors at its
project would add an extra track line in the currently single-track
territory between Michigan City and Gary, making the run to Chicago faster
and attracting an estimated 11,000 new residents to Northwest Indiana and
some $1.9 billion in private investment in the region over the next 20
The West Lake
Corridor, on the other hand, would add a spur to the exiting rail line,
extending south from a new Hammond “Gateway Station” all the way to a new
Munster/Dyer Main Street Station. That project would make Lake County an
attractive new location for Chicago workers to live.
As Noland noted,
NICTD will be approaching Congress with 100 percent of state, county, and
local funding commitments in hand and believes both projects will earn an
FTA score of Medium to Medium High, either of which should be sufficient to
qualify the projects for federal funding. Noland hopes to hear from the FTA
by October or November.
Noland did note
that the Trump Administration’s budget has “zeroed out” many categories of
federal transit funding, but he added that the Administration’s budget is
only ever a suggestion. The Senate, meanwhile, has almost fully funded
railroad funds for these sorts of projects. “There’s tremendous bipartisan
support in Congress,” Noland said.
Changes Changed Back
In other business,
NICTD marketing director John Parsons reported that a trio of schedule
changes which took effect on July 1--all of them affecting afternoon
departures from Millennium Station--have been rescinded and the original
schedule reinstated, following an unintended consequence.
The three schedule
changes were all made with the idea of capturing later quits and filling an
under-utilized train, the 5:10 p.m. departure, which had been averaging
72-percent capacity. That departure was moved to 5:24 p.m., the 5:28 p.m.
was moved to 5:30 p.m., and the 5:32 p.m. was moved to 5:45 p.m.
first of the changes--from 5:10 p.m. to 5:24 p.m.--prompted quite a few 5:10
passengers to take an earlier train, the 4:57 p.m., creating standing-room
only on that earlier train.
Since then the
original schedule has been reinstated with a temporary stop-gap measure put
in place from July 12-17--the additional of a passenger extra departing
Millennium at 5:10 p.m.--until the schedule could be fully reverted to
pre-July 1 departure times.
reported that on-time performance over the first half of 2017 has
significantly improved over the year-ago period:
* Weekday peak
trains ran 93.4 percent on time (84.7 percent in the year-ago).
* Weekday off-peak
trains ran 87 percent on time (73.9 percent in the year-ago).
* Weekend trains
ran 94 percent on time (75.4 percent in the year-ago).
* Total on-time
performance through June 2017: 88.6 percent (77.8 percent in the year-ago).
Ridership, on the
other hand, continues to dip in 2017, with the exception of weekend trains:
* Total passengers
are down through June by 1.2 percent.
* Average weekend
ridership is down 2.1 percent.
* Average peak is
down 2.8 percent.
* Average off-peak
is down 0.2 percent.
* Average weekend
ridership, however, is up fully 6.5 percent.
The trend toward
mobile-app and vending-machines ticket sales continues as well.
* Through June,
mobile-apps sales are up 70.1 percent; vending machine sales, up 3.7
sales are down 16.9 percent; on-train sales, down 4.8 percent.