10 Apr 2018

Commuter Sessions on Proposed NICTD Fare Increase Attracts Lone Rider

South Shore News

The first hearing on the South Shore Line’s proposed fare increase attracted only one regular rider. The railroad’s executives expect more at later hearings.

Carol Cole, who catches the train at the Miller station in Gary, went to the South Shore’s executive office in Chesterton on Monday to say what she thinks of the proposed fares. She said the South Shore Line’s infrastructure and safety should be the top budget priorities.

“I don’t mind an increase (in fares),” she said, “as long as it’s going to the greater benefit of everybody.”

Cole was outnumbered at the hearing by two South Shore executives: Michael Noland, the president, and Nicole Barker, the director of capital investment and implementation. Noland told Cole the railroad’s management agrees with her priorities.

The South Shore’s signal and overhead power systems are “almost brand-new” because of careful spending in past years, he said, and new rail cars are probably next in the future.

Barker said another of Cole’s concerns – a high-level platform at the Miller station in Gary, to make getting on and off the train easier and quicker – would be part of a proposed project to build a second set of tracks between Gary and Michigan City. A federal grant, if approved, would pay half the cost.

Cole wasn’t surprised that the South Shore wants to raise ticket prices, an annual event in recent years. “It seems every time Metra increases (its fares), the South Shore increases,” she said.

The South Shore says it needs an approximately 5 percent increase in fares to add at least 10 employees to operate a new safety system, Positive Train Control, which would take over a train’s controls if the operator fails to obey a safety rule. The federal government has mandated that all railroads install PTC by the end of this year.

If the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District board approves, prices of monthly tickets used by most commuters would rise about 5 percent. The percentage increase in one-way ticket prices would range from 5.1 percent to 7.6 percent. The fares would go into effect July 1.

More hearings are scheduled 7 p.m. Wednesday at Michigan City’s City Hall; 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 16, at the Gary Public Library branch in Miller; and 7 p.m. (Eastern time) Tuesday, April 17, at the South Bend airport.

People also may submit comments on the South Shore Line’s website, www.mysouthshoreline.com/fareincrease.

Tim Zorn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

Read the Post-Tribune story here.