Transportation dreams do come true • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Transportation dreams do come true

Buy Us A Coffee

Rail improvements will lead to more opportunities for youth, new residents

Mike Noland
Mike Noland is the president of South Shore Line.

The $650 million double-track project is officially coming soon to a station near you, with new and vastly improved commuter rail service in May.

At the end of February 2022, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District discontinued train service over a 26-mile section of the railroad to allow Walsh/Herzog Joint Venture, the contractor for most of the project, to construct the improvements along the railroad right-of-way without interference.

We know that it has been a long two years for our riders and our employees, and we thank everyone for their patience during this once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure improvement to Northwest Indiana’s commuter rail system. The great news, though, is that the completion of this project is a matter of weeks, not months or years, away.

We can’t wait to stop busing and resume regular, continuous train service operations. We are testing and commissioning the new infrastructure and will provide route familiarization trips for our employees in the weeks ahead.

When the project began, we provided more than 3 million passenger trips a year. But the pandemic changed the commuter service model nationwide. While our ridership has improved over the past several years, we are currently at 50% of our pre-pandemic levels.

The days of the 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday work schedule are likely gone forever. Flexible work schedules are the norm, with two to three days per week in the office, with varying start and end times. To be competitive, we must deliver a service model that serves these flexible schedules.

When we open the new service in May, we will add 14 weekday trains to the system, providing the frequency of service to meet the needs of the new, post-COVID workplace trends.

Miller Station
Two new high-level boarding platforms are part of the work done at Miller Station in Gary. (Provided by South Shore Line)

The investment in the South Shore Line will allow us to significantly reduce travel time to and from Chicago. Reducing travel times by 30 to 60 minutes daily gives back our riders precious free time, which is unquestionably a tremendous benefit to their quality of life.

Plus, by eliminating the bottlenecks caused by a single-track railroad environment, we will greatly improve our on-time performance; we know that to be successful, our customers need to be able to rely on us to get them to their destinations on time.

We believe improvements provided by the double-track project will allow us to significantly grow our ridership.

Ridership growth is very positive not only from a revenue standpoint for our budget but for the Region’s economy as well. The more residents who have the opportunity to commute to jobs in Chicago — where jobs pay on average 40% more than similar jobs in the Region — the more income comes back to Northwest Indiana.

The household income of our riders is nearly double that of the average household income in the Region for nonriders.

By providing more service frequency and reduced travel times, the attraction to locate to the Region is enhanced. Our population growth has been stagnant for many years.

As a Region, we provide wonderful educational opportunities for our young people. Still, far too often, when the time comes to start a career, young people move out of the Region, which is not a long-term strategy for its success.

The improvements to the commuter rail operation, coupled with investments in local communities associated with transit-oriented development, provide the opportunity to retain and attract our younger residents.

Before the start of the double-track project and the companion $950 million West Lake Corridor Project, economic estimates projected $2.5 billion in private sector investment over a 20-year period. We haven’t even started any new service, and there already is $400 million in committed projects in Hammond and Michigan City, with many additional projects in the works.

This private sector investment, coupled with the income boost from residents with greater access to the Chicago job market, will translate into additional tax revenue available to contribute to local, county and state government. In fact, conservatively, it is estimated that for every $1 of investment into these projects, $2 in revenue will be returned to the state. This rate of return will likely be higher, and the return will be quicker.

The Double Track Northwest Indiana and the West Lake Corridor projects have moved from dreams to planning, from environmental review and engineering to construction, and are now at our Region’s doorstep. It’s a new day for the South Shore Line system, and we are excited to be a part of the Region’s success.

Read more stories from the current issue of Northwest Indiana Business Magazine.


  • Michael Noland

    Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District

    Mike Noland was appointed president of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, the South Shore Line, by its board of trustees in October 2014. Noland came to the South Shore Line with over three decades in the railroad industry. He worked for 28 years at Metra in Chicago. Noland also was an executive with a private sector railroad holding company in Chicago with operations in nine states and the United Kingdom. In his role as president, Noland serves as the chief executive officer, managing the day-to-day operations of the South Shore Line. He earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Notre Dame and a juris doctorate from University of Illinois, Chicago Law School. Noland lives in Long Beach, with his wife, Carrie.

    Website Email

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top