Chesterton Tribune



NICTD readying to submit West Lake double tracking to FTA

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The Northern 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 meeting Friday.

The double-tracking 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 years.

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.

Rush-hour Schedule 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changes which took effect on July 1--all of them affecting afternoon departures from Millennium Station--have been rescinded and the original schedule reinstated, following an unintended consequence.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.

Unfortunately, the 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.

On-time Performance

Meanwhile, Parson 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.

Ticket Sales

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 percent.

* Ticket-agent sales are down 16.9 percent; on-train sales, down 4.8 percent.

No bikes on South Shore during Lollapalooza event

Bicycles will not be permitted on South Shore commuter line trains from Thursday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug. 6, in anticipation of heavy ridership for the Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago over the upcoming weekend.

The South Shore will be adding trains, when possible, to reduce anticipated overcrowding.

Alcohol will not be permitted either on trains after 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 2-3 and on all trains on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5-6.

Visit for more information about schedules and regulations.


Posted 8/1/2017




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