Chesterton Tribune



Restructured NICTD board meets for first time, hears of dip in ridership

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The newly restructured Board of Trustees of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District held its first meeting on Monday.

At that meeting the five-member board elected Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, its treasurer; Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, vice-chair; and St. Joseph County Commissioner Andrew Kostielney secretary.

The board is chaired by Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness.

All members were appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

The board was restructured following passage of legislation which doubled the state’s investment in the South Shore commuter line’s West Lake Corridor and double-tracking projects by dedicating $185 million in additional funding. That legislation also includes $20 million more in potential contingency funding.

The restructuring was intended to improve coordination among local, state, and federal agencies.


In other business, the board heard that ridership through May has declined by 4.8 percent from the year-ago period, with a raw decrease of 64,828 passengers.

That drop was attributed partially to the fare increase but chiefly to the polar vortex phenomenon early this winter, when bitterly cold weather forced the South Shore to suspend service on four days: two in January and two in February.

Service was also suspended for one additional day in February, after overhead electric-service wire along Metra’s line in Illinois failed.

The most dramatic decrease in ridership occurred on weekday trains, with a 4.5-percent falloff on peak trains and a 6.1-percent drop on off-peak trains.

If the polar vortex is discounted, on the other hand, ridership fell by only 1.6 percent through May, with the largest decrease--3.7 percent--on weekday off-peak trains.

On-time Performance

Meanwhile, on-time performance is also suffering somewhat this year, with 83.8 percent of trains running on-time through May, compared to 87.1 percent in the year-ago.

Weekday peak trains ran 91.6 percent on time through May, compared to 93.3 percent in the year-ago; with weekday off-peak trains running 81.3 percent on time, compared to 87.4 percent in the year-ago.

Weekend trains, on the other hand, ran 75.9 percent on time, an improvement over the 73.4 percent in the year-ago.

A plurality of late trains, 43 percent of them, ran only six to 10 minutes late; with 28 percent running 11 to 15 minutes late; and 13 percent running 16 to 20 minutes late.

The fall-off in on-time performance was attributed mostly to a “teething period” in the implementation of the positive train control (PTC) system.


PTC is a federally mandated system designed to stop trains automatically before certain human-error incidents can occur.

Currently, more than 1,000 South Shore trains have operated under PTC--25 percent of weekday trains and 25 percent of weekend trains--on 40,000 track-miles, and 90 percent of those runs have been made without issue.

There has been a problem at Millennium Station, where--because it is underground--the radio service on which PTC depends is sketchy at best.

More trains will be added to the PTC system as reliability improves, with the ultimate goal of all trains running on PTC by the end of the year.

It costs approximately $2.5 million per mile to implement PTC.


Posted 6/25/2019




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