PORTER | Board members of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District heard a review of last year’s numbers and highlights, as well as plans for 2014 during Thursday morning’s meeting.
John Parsons, director of marketing and communications, reported although ridership was down 1.7 percent last year – perhaps in response to a restructuring job market in Chicago, sequestration during the Chicago Air Show, and poor weather during some of Chicago’s events including the Taste of Chicago and the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival – ridership in 2014 is expected to improve as noted by a positive trend in rush hour ridership in the last quarter of 2013.
Gerald Hanas, general manager for NICTD, said despite the weather and a few instances lately, including closures for the safety of the riders, the “railroad is well” and he thanked the employees for “putting up with these severe conditions.”
Hanas gave his 2014 business plan report and said in 2013 there was a reduction in costs, due in part to collective bargaining that led to a reduction of salaries.
He said that rush hour on time performance was 90.8 percent compared to 86 percent in 2012 and he briefly reviewed a number of capital projects such as platforms, bridges, and catenary renewal.
“We’re not expecting any fare increases but that’s dependent on what Metra does,” said Hanas, who added that operating costs are expected to rise to about $40.2 million, or 3.6 percent over 2013 expenses.
The largest expenditure of operating expenses for NICTD is salaries and wages, some 38 percent of the budget, but Hanas reported since 2009, 22 positions have been eliminated or not filled after retirement, resulting in a 6.6 percent reduction in workforce. But he said it was important to continue to evaluate staffing levels and procurement costs.
He reviewed cash flow for the 2014 business plan and said there is a $12.2 million deficit which will be covered by state funding and is typical for its annual budgets.
Hanas continued with his strategic business plan and reviewed a series of investment strategies to guide NICTD over the next 20 years, including the West Lake Corridor Extension in Munster and Dyer at a capital cost of $571 million; and replacing an aging fleet including 41 cars bought in 1982 and should be reordered in 2019, and 17 cars that were purchased in 1992 and should be reordered in 2029.
“The existing South Shore traffic has a potential to grow so we are looking to make service upgrades,” he said noting realignments in South Bend and Michigan City which includes a new station, Gary station improvements and a high-level platform in Odgen Dunes, all with capital costs estimated at $180 million.
The board heard bid reviews and approved contracts for a steel fabrication for the north point bridge in Gary, weed and brush control services, and railroad track material for normal maintenance.