Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by njt/mnrrbuff
 
Hopefully when the double track project is completed on the SSL, more trains will be extended to Carroll Avenue Station. I hope that there are some more extended to South Bend, although not many people will want to make the daily commute from SOB-CHI and back.

Comparing the South Shore Line to MNR's Hudson Line, as I mentioned, it is about a 70 mile train ride from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central. You might have as many passengers boarding a MNR train at Poughkeepsie working in Manhattan. However, once the train gets to Beacon, then this is where you have more of your Manhattan bound commuters. Beacon has a park 'n' ride style lot at the MNR station. I think Beacon is about 60 miles from GCT. During the week at rush hour times, MNR runs a few trains that run nonstop from GCT to Beacon, I think. Most other times of the day, the Poughkeepsie expresses skip many stops south of Ossining-they stop at Tarrytown and 125th Street.
  by Tadman
 
I grew up in South Bend. I knew a handful of dads that worked in the city. Most drove, and half had a crash pad there. Few if any rode the train. Certain things make the east end a tough proposition, including the single track and street running. It just murders the ability to compete with driving. Most commuter lines have double track all the way, and none have streets to navigate.

Michigan City has been so hard to deal with, and nobody has had the political will to build around. I get why, in a vacuum. But double track and removing street running would make the east end so much more development-compatible than it is today. It would be a lightswitch. Michigan City and South Bend would see some serious growth.
  by njt/mnrrbuff
 
I believe there is a plan to relocate the SSL right of way in Michigan City to help provide a faster ride from South Bend, Hudson Lake, and Carroll Ave(Michigan City) Stations to Chicago.

Yes, many commuter rail routes are double track much of the way and the tracks don't run in the streets.

Even though that Gary for the most part has seen better days, I believe that the area around the Miller neighborhood is very good and many people are moving to that area so that probably add more riders to the Miller Station. When the extension to Munster and Dyer opens up, that will have many park 'n' ride lot style stations. I have read that many people have been moving to the towns like Munster and Dyer and that immediate area.
  by MattW
 
Following this conversation, I actually had to go measure form Chicago to South Bend. Somehow it always seemed that South Bend was a lot farther out. I guess it seems that way since density drops off pretty quick. The distances between the last three stations stops are 17 and 15 miles respectively with nothing in between to even consider serving.
  by Tadman
 
There has been a plan to move Michigan City street running since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. There's been 20 plans. They've planned, and planned, and drawn so many lines on a map you can't see the streets under them. Then they plan some more, then more plans.

Ever hear that saying "put 1000 monkeys in a room with typewriters and eventually they're write the works of shakespeare"? It's one of those situations. There's enough plans to move the street running that they could re-lay the Milwaukee Road to Seattle, and with catenary, too!
  by njt/mnrrbuff
 
It's no surprise that the elimination of the street running in Michigan City has been in the planning stages for an extremely long time. South Bend is very far from Chicago for commuting daily. The city pairs are about 90 miles apart from each other. That's almost the same distance from Chicago to Milwaukee. East of Carroll Avenue Station, it does look like the last two stops are very far a part, probably in the teens mileagewise. From when I rode the South Shore Line train in 2013, I noticed that east of Carroll Avenue Station, you pass mostly flatland with not much in the way of residential and commercial properties. Honestly, even west of Michigan City, the right of way doesn't pass much in the way of commercial and residential properties but I think the closer that you get to Gary, then the more residential and commercial properties are along the South Shore Line tracks. The South Shore Line has more park 'n' ride lot style stations over town center stations unlike Metra.
  by Tadman
 
Image

Perhaps this map helps. What seems like empty country west of Michigan City is actually National Park land that cannot be developed. 5 minutes to the south are plenty of bed room communities and hybrid local/bedroom. Towns like Chesterton, Valpo, Portage, etc... Dune Park serves a lot of those with a giant parking lot and high platforms.

What seems like farmland east of Michigan City is indeed empty. That's because you're behind single track and street running. The street running just murders timing. If they would build a giant parking lot station by the prison on the west end of Michigan City, I bet ridership goes up. I'm not sure why they make MC passengers ride across town to the center and east end.

And then there's South Bend. Chances are over half the passengers get to the station by US 31 bypass or Cleveland Road, then they have to drive fifteen minutes to the airport after that. Then they get on a slow train that runs on defacto street running for 15 minutes back out under the bypass. The airport station was a gimmick idea. What they should've done is just open a giant parking lot station ten minutes west of the US 31 bypass on Highway 2. What i mean by defacto street running - while the South Bend city trackage is not in the street, it once was. All the did was pick it up in 1965 and move it to the shoulder. It's still very slow with sharp curves. It also murders timing.

Like this
Image

Moving the station west of the bypass might take 20 minutes off the schedule. Cutting Michigan City street running might take another 20 minutes off. 40 minutes is a huge win.
  by njt/mnrrbuff
 
There was talk about having the South Shore right of way approach the airport from the west without having to take that half a square. The approach to the South Bend Airport Station is very slow and that does add to the travel time a lot. There is even a proposal to bring the South Shore Line back to Downtown South Bend. If the South Shore ever gets restored to Downtown South Bend while still serving the airport, then it's best that a new right of way approach is built to the airport from the west. By the way, the Michigan City street running will get eliminated. Yes, I have heard that towns like Chesterton and Portage are bedroom communities. I know that Chesterton has a downtown area but it's not super close to a South Shore Station. You still have to drive to the station or take a car service.
  by justalurker66
 
There have been a lot of failed plans to remove Michigan City street running. I do not expect the current plan to fail (unless funding is pulled). It is part of the bigger plan and the planners have finally pushed approval past the residents of Michigan City who would rather have the train terminate in Porter county (or west of Sheridan, if it had to cross the county line).

South Bend has its own planning challenges and that is far from resolution. The airport, railroad and city agreed to a plan and then the neighbors got involved and everything was scratched. No final plan has been chosen. Yes, it is bad. One day I took a picture of a train as it departed the airport, drove to Birchim (where I-80/90 crosses NICTD) to take a picture of the same train passing an opposing train then drove to Michigan City. I was out of my car at Birchim and had to walk back to the car after the trains passed. When I reached Michigan City the train was just departing Shops for 11th St. It shouldn't be that easy to catch up to a train. The street running allowed me to get ahead of the train (via US 12). It started winning around Beverly Shores. It would not take much to win a race from South Bend to Millennium Park - depending on where one is going in Chicago the choice is easy.
  by njt/mnrrbuff
 
No, it should never be easy to have to chase a commuter train period. Here in New Jersey Transit land, the once you west of Basking Ridge on the Gladstone Branch, the right of way does a lot of twisting and turning. About a decade ago, a friend and I were driving around photographing the rush hour of evening trains on the Gladstone Branch and after photographing a Midtown Direct train at Bernardsville Station heading to Gladstone, we ended up catching up to it a few short miles down the road. The Gladstone Branch is strictly meant for MUs but during the week in better times, there are two Midtown Direct trains on the branch that use push pull trains and while the ALP46s have good acceleration, it's not as good as an Arrow III set. For a certain number of years on weekends, the westbound trains on the Gladstone Branch had to sit at Far Hills where there is a siding to let eastbounds pass. Just like the South Shore Line, the Gladstone Branch is mostly single track with sidings. Of course the difference with the South Shore is that that route is a lot longer than the Gladstone Branch and there is straight double track along part of the route. Along the Gladstone Branch, many stations have parking lots that aren't in downtown areas and the parking lots aren't that big.
  by Tadman
 
Reminds me of the "I'm late for the train" secrete. In the summer I live 25 minutes north of MC on the lake. I prefer (the shortest drive and biggest parking lot) is to head into town on 12, left on Liberty, park at Shops. But if I'm late, I know I can haul a** down the highway and beat the train to Beverly Shores. Never missed a train yet, although I like to get to Shops good and early so I can get a spot in the main lot. I don't care to leave my car in the remote lot, as 9/10 of my trips are overnight or over an entire week or two.