Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Temporary South Shore schedule changes ahead in October during maintenance work

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By PAULENE POPARAD

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 Chicago.

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 www.nictd.com

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 Phemister.

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, said Parsons.

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 Shore.

 

 

Posted 9/30/2013