VALPARAISO | The ChicaGo Dash begins its fifth year of operation after finishing up its fourth year by topping the 100 riders-a-day benchmark for the first time.
The Dash express commuter service to Chicago's Loop had 3,842 riders in September, an average of 101.1 each way on the three routes. This broke the previous record average of 99.2 set in June, Planning Director Tyler Kent said. Ridership dropped off in July and August as people took vacations.
The August ridership was 4,209, the second highest monthly total, but averaged only 91.5 each way for the weekday service because of 23 service days in the month compared with only 19 in September. The steadily increasing ridership is expected to result in the addition of a fourth bus in the not-too-distant future.
Kent said approval for the federal funding for the bus is in the final phases, and he has been authorized to prepare the specifications for the vehicle. These will be presented to the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, which oversees the bid process because of the federal funding.
"The Dash has proved to be a very successful effort to make commuting to Chicago convenient and affordable," Mayor Jon Costas said. "We are pleased to provide the service and to have the ability to expand it in the future. Chicago is a world-class city, and we will do everything we can to help our citizens take advantage of the work and cultural opportunities there."
The Dash started in October 2008 with just two buses and a first-month average ridership of 30 people each way. Within a year, a third bus was added, and the highest daily ridership was 65. The leased buses were replaced with the new vehicles in the spring of 2010, and the daily average on each reached 71 by the end of the second year.
The city received the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence for the Dash that year. As gasoline prices again rose above $3 a gallon that winter, ridership quickly began to exceed 100 on a regular basis but couldn't quite hold that as an average until last month.