Almost half of South Shore commuter train riders would like to see alcohol prohibited on cars and 79 percent would like to see rush hour "quiet cars" where cell phone chats and noisy electronic devices are prohibited.
Those are just two preliminary results of an extensive rider survey released at Friday's meeting of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District board of trustees, which oversees the railroad running from South Bend to Chicago.
South Shore riders are most satisfied with the courtesy displayed by the railroad's personnel and most dissatisfied with communication of train delays at stations, according to the survey.
The survey has not been completed yet and will soon include geo-mapping information on what communities South Shore riders come from matched with where they board trains, said Joanne Schroeder, one of the consultants performing the study.
"This survey will serve as a barometer for us as we try to increase ridership," said NICTD General Manager Gerald Hanas.
NICTD Trustees on Friday also unanimously voted for a resolution endorsing a joint NICTD/Michigan City committee's endorsement of a double-track alignment along the 10th and 11th street corridor.
Passage of the resolution appears to put a lid on years of discussions and controversy about what route any new tracks should take through the city. Up to seven routes were considered in all. Friday's action essentially keeps the tracks in the same corridor where they are now, but with important changes.
Instead of a single track with ties embedded in the pavement, two tracks would run through the corridor and ties would be accessible for repairs. That means streets won't have to be torn up every time a rail or tie needs repairs.
Friday's NICTD action also approved the joint NICTD/city committee's endorsement of consolidating Michigan City's two South Shore stations into one and constructing an eight-car, high-level boarding platform there.
"These were tough subjects we had to bring up," said NICTD Chairman Mark Yagelski. "We had to weigh them against the interests of the railroad and explain that this is for the next 100 years."
The railroad's next step is to finish a final report on the route. It could then begin conducting an environmental study. Construction of new tracks would not start for at least 2 1/2 years, and NICTD still has to find the estimated $100 million it would cost.
NICTD trustees on Friday also approved beginning a search for a site to build a new car storage building. It will not replace the NICTD shops off N. Roeske Avenue in Michigan City, but will be used to handle overflow that may develop there, Hanas said.
The trustees also approved hiring Gannett Fleming Inc., of Audobon, Pa., for an amount not to exceed $6,954,830. Gannett Fleming will serve as program manager for installation of a wireless train control system that can slow or stop trains headed for collisions or accidents. The federal government is mandating the system, called positive train control, be installed by the end of 2015.
The board also approved purchase of a digger-derrick truck for $301,424 from AlTec Inc., of Indianapolis. Also approved was a contract for 30,000 feet of catenary feeder cable from Wesco International Inc., of Hammond, for $447,000. The contract has a provision tying it to current copper prices.
Also approved was a $2,596,500 contract for 15 car sets of AC propulsion systems from Japanese maker Toshiba.