South Shore ridership declined slightly in 2013, but increases in peak ridership in each of the three last months of the year have the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District hopeful for a better 2014.
The fundamental determinant of South Shore ridership is the economy in Chicago's Loop, but a number of one-time factors also limited ridership in 2013, according to NICTD Assistant Director John Parsons.
One of the largest of those may have been the closure of Hammond's Nine Span Bridge as the old bridge was dismantled and a new one constructed. The bridge serves as the gateway to the East Chicago South Shore station, the railroad's busiest with its largest parking lot.
NICTD will be wrapping up work on a strategic business plan this year for railroad expansion and improvements. Preliminary findings say that expansion and the improvements could attract up to 5,600 new riders per day.
On the freight rail scene, U.S. freight carloads were up 1.5 percent in October, according to Railway Age. Intermodal traffic on U.S. railroads was up 6.8 percent. Short line carloads were up 2.2 percent.