Some South Shore passengers should plan for longer commutes in October while
maintenance projects are undertaken at the Illinois/Indiana state line and
in LaPorte County.
Efforts are being made to lessen the impact the state-line project will have
on rush-hour service.
Oct. 5 and 6 a limited number of trains will be affected resulting in some
passengers being bused between Hegewisch and Hammond stations; passengers on
other trains will see changes Oct. 7-11 including some busing in Illinois
and from the Gary Metro Center and stations west into Millennium Station in
According to Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District general
manager Gerald Hanas, the temporary schedule changes and anticipated delays
are necessary to install a new crossover, switches and realign overhead
wires near the state line.
Oct. 20 to Nov. 1 the South Shore temporarily will bus passengers between
South Bend, Hudson Lake and Michigan City while a bridge is replaced east of
the Carroll Avenue Station. Hudson Lake passengers will not be bused to
South Bend. The railroad recommends passengers drive to Carroll Avenue in
Michigan City to board trains to Chicago.
Specific information about next month’s schedule changes can be found at
In other business, passengers now are using the eastern portion of the new
high-boarding platform at Dune Park Station north of Chesterton that opened
in August. Hanas said it’s worked out well. Phase 2 of the platform to the
west is under construction and slated for completion in November.
Once done passengers can walk out of Dune Park across an extended veranda
onto the trains without using steps for faster boarding. The project also
includes warming shelters and road modifications to improve vehicular
traffic flow at the station.
At Friday’s NICTD meeting passenger Bernie Holicky of Chesterton praised the
station upgrades. “How nice to have all (train) doors open at Dune Park.
Progress is really being made.”
Bike request again heard
During public comment Friday, surburban outreach manager Leslie Phemister
representing Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago renewed previous
calls by others to allow bicycles on South Shore trains. She encouraged the
NICTD board to set a policy for 2014.
Polling shows some South Shore riders want to bring bikes aboard, and of 23
commuter lines NICTD is among the three that don’t allow bikes, according to
Hanas said NICTD is studying how to balance safety and passenger good-will
because not everyone would welcome bikes. Nevertheless, “We want to be all
in on this” and do it right, said Hanas.
One of the options is removing half the seats in dedicated cars and
installing bike racks; the existing cars could be retrofitted or new cars
purchased, but at stations that don’t have high-boarding platforms bringing
bikes up steps would cause delays.
On another matter, it was announced that any government-issued ID with photo
can be used as a valid proof of age for ticket purposes.
Board confirms 2009 TOD policy
Audience member Jim Nowacki urged NICTD to initiate a transit-oriented
development policy for the district, however, NICTD board member Mark
Catanzarite of St. Joseph County said one was adopted four years ago.
The existing policy recognizes the value of carefully planned mixed-use
commercial and residential development within close proximity to South Shore
stations, and sets as a goal to work with developers and affected
communities to foster station projects that are mutually beneficial.
The district wants to reduce non-trackside management responsibilities it
must assume, expects to derive revenue where appropriate from public/private
partnerships it would undertake, and would be willing to apply for grants
for suitable development projects.
The policy promotes a higher quality commute for passengers like
restaurants, retail and a parking garage, but at reasonable costs and
minimal environmental impact.
NICTD board member Michael Repay of Lake County said no one expects the
Federal Highway Administration to lead development around its highway
interchanges with TOD projects. So should NICTD’s role be one of
cooperation, not fiscal responsibility, said Repay.
NICTD’s long-range plans, including a possible West Lake extension of tracks
to Lowell and Valparaiso, are the subject of an ongoing Indiana legislative
Joint Study Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Assessment. NICTD
is preparing a strategic business plan targeting December completion before
the next legislative session begins.
Approved Friday was the bid of Ventek International for nine additional
credit/debit ticket vending machines at a total cost of $159,913. NICTD uses
20 ticket machines now. Also accepted was the low bid of $172,627 from Truck
City of Gary for a crew-cab section truck.
NICTD marketing director John Parsons said August ridership dipped 2.1
percent but average weekend ridership increased by the same number.
Year-to-date through August the South Shore carried 2,441,624 passengers,
2.3 percent less than 2012 but a stronger showing than Metra in Illinois,
At the meeting’s conclusion those present gave retiring financial/accounting
employee Mary Jo Dybel a standing ovation for her 34 years of service to
NICTD. Dybel said she was a commuter on the old orange train cars when Hanas
hired her in 1979, and since then she’s seen exciting changes for the South