The South Shore is
considering whether to boost the surcharge on one-way cash tickets purchased
onboard passenger trains to discourage that option.
The move would be
part of a general fare increase being evaluated by staff that also would
discount sales made at ticket windows, vending machines and through the
South Shore’s new app for iPhones and mobile devices that displays a ticket
icon on the screen.
Indiana Commuter Transportation District would have to approve the fare
adjustments, which likely couldn’t take place until next year.
adds a $1 surcharge to tickets purchased on trains if a ticket agent had
been on duty. Metra in Illinois charges $3 more and penalties across the
U.S. range from $1.25 to $6.50 depending on the location and time of
At NICTD’s meeting
Friday, general manager Gerald Hanas said South Shore conductors sell about
400,000 tickets a year generating over $3 million in revenue ---
transactions that take time and require additional control, accounting and
No cash handling is
required when using a ticket vending machine or mobile app that rely on
credit/debit cards; NICTD plans to install more ticket machines at
Ticket sales and
revenue using the mobile app, introduced in June, has doubled to 3,283
tickets in July. Ticket-agent and conductor sales have declined slightly
this year, said Hanas, but management wants to push that trend and increase
the use of electronic ticketing even more.
He added that
finding the appropriate balance for commuters is a complex process because
while the South Shore could ban cash sales on trains, NICTD doesn’t want to
penalize someone who doesn’t have a credit card.
And if a
substantial penalty were added for onboard ticket purchases, Hanas noted,
NICTD doesn’t want to put conductors in an adversarial position with
passengers to collect it.
NICTD also offers
purchase of tickets by mail, but that use and revenue has dropped nearly 37
percent year-to-date over 2013.
is encouraging, said NICTD marketing director John Parsons, despite periodic
busing between some stations due to upgrades/maintenance. July had the
highest monthly ridership since 2010 with 2,086,379 total commuters riding
the South Shore so far this year and more Chicago festivals and Notre Dame
home games yet to take place.
Among the summer
work projects are replacement of 2,400 feet of track embedded in 10th Street
in Michigan City (requiring busing Aug. 5, 7,12 and 14 between Dune Park),
and a continuing upgrade of the overhead catenary line between South Bend
and Michigan City (busing Aug. 4-8 and Sept. 8-12).
In other business,
Hanas said because of the complexity of the proposals received last month,
staff won’t be ready until September to recommend a vendor to design,
fabricate, construct and install a Positive Train Control system.
Railroad Administration mandated the new system for most U.S. rail carriers
by Dec. 31, 2015. Hanas said none of the vendors can comply with that
PTC relies on a new
communications infrastructure that doesn’t exist and early estimates for the
South Shore to build and integrate one was $35 million. NICTD’s PTC needs to
be compatible with that of Metra, where the South Shore shares track and
The new system will
enable real-time, GPS-assisted data transmission from trains, signals,
switches and track circuits to a central location to control train movements
so collisions can be prevented.
Also Friday, NICTD
directors approved a five-year extension of the current contract with Crowe
Horwath for auditing services through 2018.