HOBART | Valparaiso should know by the end of February whether there is sufficient demand to warrant making Hobart a stop on the ChicaGo Dash express commuter service from Valparaiso to Chicago's Loop.
Surveys went out this month with the sewer bill asking residents how often they travel to Chicago, how they get there, where they go in Chicago, and whether they would use an express bus service if it were available. The survey also asks what the best departure times from Hobart and Chicago would be, where the city should put a park and ride lot and what people would consider to be a reasonable fare.
Valparaiso Planner A. J. Bytnar said he will collect all the responses to the mailed surveys and those submitted on the city's Web site in early February before deciding what to do. Valparaiso began running the service in October 2008 and has three buses going to the Loop each morning and back in the evening.
The two cities have talked for the last few months about adding a stop in Hobart to increase ridership, which has averaged about 55 each way on weekdays. The buses are equipped with restrooms, Wi-Fi Internet service, cushioned seats, overhead storage racks and reading lights.
"We want to find the best way for this to work for them and for Hobart," Bytnar said.
Hobart would be responsible for providing the parking lot and making sure it was plowed in the winter. It also might need to handle ticket sales, but Stuart Summers, executive director of the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission, said Valparaiso would prefer to work it out so people could order the tickets by mail.
Bytnar said the city would use the survey information to see if it qualified for grants for anything connected to the service.
Summers said he's hoping the addition of the Hobart stop would result in a significant increase in ridership of 20 percent or so, but the city is waiting for the results of the survey.
"We're anxious to try things, but we don't want to draw a line in the sand and say we need so many responses or we won't try it. A lot has to do with what Hobart wants to do," Summers said.