Chesterton Tribune



Pilot bikes-on-trains program to start on South Shore April 2

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The South Shore commuter line’s pilot bikes-on-trains program officially begins on Saturday, April 2, and by the time it ends, on Oct. 31, there’ll have been some 130,000 “bike opportunities,” as General Manager Michael Noland told the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s Board of Directors at its meeting Friday morning.

Between 14 and 52 bike racks have been installed on seven cars: three cars are fully racked, four are quarter racked. And 14 of 18 weekend trains will be equipped with those seven cars. The four “bikeless” trains, Noland said, are already at 90-percent capacity and there simply isn’t room on them to accommodate bicyclists.

NICTD will be evaluating which of the 14 trains prove most popular with bicyclists, but Noland said it’s his prediction that nearly as many Chicagoans will be taking their bikes east into the Dunes as Hoosiers will be taking theirs west into the City.

Member David Pranckus, one of Gov. Pence’s appointees, did wonder whether NICTD has considered installing bike racks at some of its Chicago stations, for bicyclists who miss a return train or simply want to walk a bit or enjoy a meal.

“That’s a great idea,” Noland said. “And we’re looking into it.”

Bicyclists who plan on using the weekend-only service should review the “Rules of the Road” posted at

Among those rules:

* Bicyclists may board or disembark only at stations with elevated platforms.

* No riding on station platforms.

* Rack space is available on a first come/first served basis. Space is not guaranteed on an initial or a return trip, including on late-night trains.

* Bikes may not block aisles or impede passenger movement.

* Bike cars may appear during weekday service if needed for seats but bikes are nevertheless only allowed on select weekend trains.

* Train crews have the final say on accommodating bikes. Crews may prevent a bicyclist from boarding due to overcrowding.


In other business, Noland reported that 80 percent of all South Shore cars are now equipped with WiFi and that by the end of March the WiFi “should be fully installed” in all cars.

“We’re really proud of that,” he said. “It’s a great addition to our system. Kudos to the guys in the shop. They’ve really done a great job in getting that up and running.”

‘Take Us for a Free Ride’

Meanwhile, NICTD’s innovative promotion, “Take Us for a Free Ride”--which got picked up on the wire and made the news in the oddest places, like Laredo, Texas--has proved to be hugely successful, Noland said.

Off-peak travel during the promotion period, March 13-17, increased by more than a quarter, 27 percent; while there were more than 50 media placements reporting the promotion across Indiana, Chicagoland, and Southwest Michigan.

The promotion’s presence on social media, however, was huge, Noland added: more than 165,000 people were reached, while the landing webpage had 7,334 page views and 6,687 unique visitors.

“We earned some good will,” Noland said. “We got some people in the system who hadn’t ridden before and might again.”

NICTD, for its part, might very well run the promotion again, at some point. “We have the equipment, we have the crews, we have the capacity,” as Noland put it.


The derailment early on the morning of Saturday, March 12, was the result of a freight switch’s not being lined for South Shore commuter traffic, Noland reported. Three cars of the empty train--the first of the day--went down one track and three down another, with several leaving the tracks altogether.

No one was injured but several cars sustained “a fair amount of damage,” not to mention the cost incurred by the necessity of arranging for the services of a heavy crane to right the cars and clear the track.

Service was suspended for some 12 hours.

Performance through February

Total passengers for the first two months of the year are down 1.8 percent from the year-ago period; average weekday, down 2.8 percent; average peak, down 2.2 percent; average off-peak, down 4.3 percent; and average weekend, down 1.2 percent.

On-time performance for the first two months of 2016 was also off last year’s pace: on-time weekday peak was 82.9 percent (86 percent in year-ago); on-time weekday off-peak, 81.6 percent (88.7 percent); on-time weekend, 78.6 percent (80.8 percent); and total on-time, 81.4 percent (86.5 percent).


Posted 3/21/2016




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