News & Reviews News Wire Officials celebrate South Shore Line’s improved capacity, speed, and frequency

Officials celebrate South Shore Line’s improved capacity, speed, and frequency

By Bob Johnston | May 13, 2024

| Last updated on May 17, 2024

Ribbon cutting at revamped Miller station precedes launch of 14 additional weekday trains

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Two-car bilevel train arrives at station, with crossing signals in foreground
The special train carrying NICTD president Mike Noland, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, and other officials arrives at the Gary Miller station on Monday. Bob Johnston

GARY, Ind. — Few rail rehabilitation projects can truthfully claim “better than ever” when physical plant and service improvements are completed, but South Shore Line commuter service appears to be one.

As Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District President Mike Noland told the crowd of gathered in a tent in the parking lot of the newly reconstructed Miller station in east Gary on Monday, “The railroad is poised to perform like never before, and we completed this project on time and under budget!”

Man uses oversized scissors to cut ribbon at new station
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb cuts the ribbon at the South Shore’s remodeled Miller station in Gary, Ind., on Monday, May 13. Bob Johnston

The “Better Than Ever” slogan was on the ribbon Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-Ind.) cut with ceremonial scissors after he and Noland arrived on a special train from Michigan City, Ind., and on banners the train had broken through en route to Gary. Without one mention of political affiliations, both men acknowledged the roles that local, state, and federal legislators of both parties played in getting the eight-year, $650 million project funded, aided by a $173 million Federal Transit Administration capital investment grant.

Bilevel electric train approaches banner strumng across tracks
Monday’s South Shore special train from Michigan City to Gary, Ind., prepares to break through a “Better Than Ever” banner at the Dune Park station in Chesterton, Ind., on Monday, May 13. Bruce Stahl

Beginning Tuesday, May 14, a completely revamped schedule features 14 additional weekday trains, with nonstop and skip-stop express trains sprinkled through both peak and reverse peak departures. This brings the total number of weekday trains to 53 [see “South Shore to introduce expanded schedules …,” Trains News Wire, April 19, 2024]. Dramatic changes to and time savings on the new schedule include 67-minute, limited-stop expresses to Michigan City; the previous average was about two hours.

Noland told reporters the line’s maximum authorized speed remains unchanged at 79 mph, but slow orders were eliminated. Elimination of street running in Michigan City resulted in increases from 15 mph to 25 and 35 mph [see “South Shore Line’s street running ends …,” News Wire, March 7, 2022]. Twenty crossings were closed and the remaining 13 have been upgraded with warning devices. 

Running times have also been cut with the addition of more stations offering level boarding from high-level platforms: Michigan City 11th Street, Portage/Ogden Dunes, and Miller.

Man in blue suit and red tie
NICTD President Mike Noland, after arriving on Monday’s special train from Michigan City to Miller in Gary. Bob Johnston

Noland said the fare structure is under review, and changes may follow once the line gets a handle on the additional patronage the new schedules are expected to attract: “We’re going to look at fares that encourage more customers to ride between Indiana stations.”

Asked about schedules, Noland added, “We know we need to add more weekend service. We’re actually going to look at all of our train schedules, modifying them in the next few months to make sure we tweak it and make them right. We’re going to be listening to our riders to see what they want.”

Woman in orange coat with train in background
NICTD project manager Nicole Barker. Bob Johnston

Perhaps no one who attended Monday’s event was more excited — and most likely relieved — than NICTD project manager Nicole Barker. She told News Wire, “With the restriction of having only one track through most of our service area east of Gary, we could only run one express train in each direction. More people want to come out and visit this area and the state park. Once the bike trails are paved and connected, we expect more people to come out and enjoy Indiana’s recreation opportunities.”

Next up: completion of the $950 million West Lake project south of the main line at Hammond to Dyer, Ind., utilizing the abandoned Monon right-of-way, and a $200 million downtown Chicago capacity expansion in conjunction with Metra.

The train that brought officials to Miller awaits their return at the end of the ceremony. Note the high-level platforms; Miller is one of three newly remodeled stations featuring the elevated platforms, cutting boarding times. Bob Johnston

9 thoughts on “Officials celebrate South Shore Line’s improved capacity, speed, and frequency

  1. Wisconsin, oops, read metro Milwaukee’s bloated, boondogle, billion dollar interchange replacements benefitting suburbanites and truckers. Some remember the paving over of the “Speedrail” ROW, Mayor Maier’s ghetto-blasting expressway projects (with unfortunate consequences down to the present), etc.

    1. Last I checked, Curtis, there are plenty of cars registered in Milwaukee. And plenty of Milwaukeans have jobs out here in the ‘burbs. Meanwhile MCTS (County transit buses) ridership hovers somewhere between slim and nonexistent. So thank WisDOT for those freeways. Oh and BTW Kalmbach publishing has sat out here in the ‘burbs for four decades – Town of Brookfield, Waukesha County.

      Curtis, in recent decades, highway rebuilds haven’t been for increased capacity, but rather for safety and maintainability. If you don’t like WisDOT’s 2004-2006 billion-dollar rebuild of the Marquette Interchange, think how would you like what the old interchange would look now — it would have collapsed into rubble, including both the cars on the viaducts and anyone caught beneath.

      Oh, one more thing, note that one hundred – point zero zero zero zero percent of those intermodal loads on the rails end up on the freeways. So, without freeways, the railroads wouldn’t even exist any more.

      Oh and those “ghetto-blasting” freeways you speak of. Which Milwaukee freeways were built in the ghetto? USH 141 (now IH 43) north of downtown, and the Park West (land acquired but never built). All the rest through white neighborhoods.

      For the last 60 years, Detroiters have wailed on and on and on and on about freeways built through the ghettos. Which Detroit freeways were built through the ghettos? Some. Much of I-375/ I-75 Walter P. Chrysler. Most of I-96 Jeffries. All the others within Detroit city limits were built through white neighborhoods. Including M-39 Southfield, most of I-94 Edsel Ford, M-10 John C. Lodge, I-75 in Southwest Detroit, the northern part of I-75 Walter P. Chrysler, about from Davison to Eight Mile, — To say nothing of the fact that there also are freeways in suburbia such as I-696 Walter P. Reuther — which displaced many white people and just about no minorities.

    1. Unfortunately Samuel Insull III died in 1997 and had no survivors. It would have been kind of cool to have one of Sam’s descendants there. Even though he was a lawyer by education, he took more after his grandmother and was a fan of the arts.

  2. Impressive. I am starting to see the “on time and on budget” a bit more often. Very nice. I just read a report on the NEC Portal North bridge replacement project hitting the 50% completion goal, and it too is on time and budget. Hopefully a trend.

    1. A pleasure to read your optimitic post, Laurence … but one small piece of advice: — stay out of Californa. Yet another fiasco in the Golden State, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, a BART extension in the South Bay way over budget and way behind schedule, propped up and bailed out by Joe Biden with our tax money from the other 49 states — at a time when BART ridership is down by half.

      Here in Wisconsin there’a a firm principle in highway mega-projects, under governors of both polictial parties: on time, on budget.

  3. Yea! A mention of the new Westlake line. Hopefully we can get a more detail construction update.

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