By VINCENT GALBIATI
President and CEO of the
Northwest Indiana Forum.
Before the Northwest Indiana Forum committed to working on the Chicago-South
Shore Connections project it first had to get an understanding of the
importance of mass transit to sustaining and growing employment in northwest
Indiana. The Forum did its research balancing the benefits of an expanded
rail system to the cost of building the service.
There is an abundance of information on the subject that is easily obtained
both supporting rail transit and dismissing it. Two organizations that
provide access to a wealth of data, studies, articles and research are the
American Public Transportation Association www.apta.org
and the Center for
Trans-portation Excellence www.cfte.org
are a vast number of nationally commissioned studies that are accessible
through the US Department of Transportation www.dot.gov
related studies through the US Department of Labor
the US Environmental Protection Agency www.epa.gov
It takes some effort but
reading the Safe Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity
Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) will provide a good foundation for
understanding the importance of investing into transportation systems.
Some of the most reputable private firms such as Deloitte and Cambridge
Systematics who advise private and public investors do their own research.
Though not as direct as the not-for-profit associations or government studies
their information can be obtained if you seek them, and the Forum did.
After getting an understanding of the issues and a national mass transit
perspective, the Forum reviewed the strategic plans and commissioned studies
of the Northwestern Indiana Planning Commission, (NIRPC), the Northwest
Indiana Regional Development Authority, (RDA) and the Northern Indiana
Commuter Transit District, (NICTD).
2030 transportation plan includes mass transit www.nirpc.org
The RDA’s Comprehensive Economic Strategic Plan, based on its enabling
statute, requires the development of commuter service (
commissioned studies show that it is at capacity with its present line and
needs to expand to meet the demands of the growing and shifting populations
of both Lake and Porter Counties www.nictd.com
All of which
are easily available to the public to read.
The Northwest Indiana Forum is a not-for-profit regional economic development
organization representing the private sector and is dedicated to bringing
jobs to northwest Indiana. Its constituency includes manufacturing,
universities, healthcare, workforce development, mental health organizations,
special needs organizations and municipalities through their respective
economic development organizations, and it is the most logical entity in
northwest Indiana to bring together business, political, civic, and
grassroots organizations collectively under a truly regional project called,
So when columnists glibly imply the Northwest Indiana Forum has the
reputation of a socialist regime or purveyors of propaganda, it clearly
demonstrates a lack of understanding about the organization and irresponsibly
spreads an unsubstantiated and inaccurate claim.
Since the South Shore is public transit, the RDA’s financial participation
supporting public outreach is both warranted and completely appropriate. The
Northwest Indiana Forum applied for the grant through a rigorous, established
RDA process spanning two months, and the grant was awarded based on the
merits of the initiative. The RDA acted with complete transparency and
With regards to taxpayers’ money being received by the Northwest Indiana
Forum: (1) the Forum acts as the fiduciary to Connections, (2) the mailers
are to educate and inform the public describing the scope of the project, its
costs, and the expected benefits to the region by investing into the
expansion, (3) the literature is consistent with responsibilities for public
outreach and education by the RDA, (4) Connections has acted appropriately
and responsibly with the monies received by the RDA.
Public outreach has included: speakers bureaus, websites, educational
materials, newspaper articles, television talk shows, chamber of commerce
meetings, Rotary meetings, Kiwanis meetings, union meetings, presentations to
convention and visitors bureaus and city, town and county councils, train
station handouts, and much more.
Communicating to ensure the region’s citizens understand the costs and the
benefits of expanding the South Shore is especially needed when it involves
the public’s investment. The grant by the RDA represents only 15% of the
total budgeted public campaign costs.
The commitment of the Forum was to facilitate the initiative regionally
involving a broad base of support, and it succeeded. Endorsements and
financial support have come from a wide variety of sources including: civic
organizations, businesses, personal contributions, chambers of commerce,
economic development organizations, municipalities, labor unions, and many,
Finally, the Porter County Commissioners have approved a resolution submitted
to the RDA requiring the Northwest Indiana Forum to submit a full disclosure
of all funding and expenditures associated with the Connections project. The
Northwest Indiana Forum is obligated to disclose the use of the RDA proceeds
as a condition of the grant and will fully comply when requested.
For more information, contact Karen Lauerman, Director of Marketing &
Communications 219/763-6303, ext. 181 or