Gary Public Transportation Corp. is to be commended for starting a new bus route in Hammond.
The goal is to have this new route operational May 5, serving riders abandoned when the Regional Bus Authority collapsed nearly two years ago.
The new Lakeshore South route will serve Purdue University Calumet as well as shopping centers and medical facilities in Munster and Highland. Current projections call for this route to serve 45,000 riders annually.
The GPTC board's vote on this change was 5-0 on Thursday, a good sign of the board's eagerness to be the regional service provider Northwest Indiana needs.
GPTC will also change the current Tri-City Connections route, renamed Lakeshore Connx, to serve East Chicago's South Shore train station, along with other locations.
Gary service will not suffer because of the expansion, said David White, GPTC's planning and marketing director.
It's good to see GPTC branching out.
Northwest Indiana needs regional bus service, but until that goal is achieved, GPTC's action is a good start.
Ideally, Northwest Indiana would have a regional bus service that offers regularly scheduled service in heavily populated areas -- like Lake County's urban area, Valparaiso and Michigan City -- and demand-response and paratransit service like North Township's Dial-A-Ride for sparsely populated areas and for riders who can't easily get to a bus stop. Those riders would have to call to arrange for a ride.
The RBA was headed in this direction but collapsed when funding shriveled up. The agency is gone, but the mission of a seamless public transportation network should not be.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. had turned over bus service in Hammond to the RBA as a step toward that goal.
Richard Jones, who formerly rode the RBA and Hammond buses, summed it up well: "Basically, I'm glad it's going to bring new life to what was a dead system."
GPTC's action Thursday is a good start.