The Gary Public Transportation Corp. will launch its long-planned Broadway Metro Express service Feb. 19, reducing ride time, adding stops and offering more frequent service along an 11-mile stretch from the Gary Metro Center to Merrillville's Methodist Hospital Southlake Campus.
The upgrades will include new bus lanes at stops and new shelters. GPTC will also begin using a smart-phone app called Token Transit that allows passengers to buy phone-based tickets.
"What we're hoping to achieve is increased ridership," GPTC General Manager Daryl Lampkins said. "It's going to make it a lot more seamless."
The express service will be complemented with a new Merrillville Shuttle, starting Jan. 22, and an Ivy Tech South Broadway Shuttle, starting Feb. 19.
The Broadway Metro Express will connect to the Merrillville Shuttle at 61st Avenue. That service, funded by Merrillville, includes stops at the TelePerformance call center in Hobart and Merrillville High School, Hickory Ridge Lake Apartments and Towne Center senior living center in Merrillville.
The new south Broadway shuttle will pick up riders at Century Plaza in Merrillville and provide rides to the Purdue Technology Center and Ivy Tech Crown Point campus in Merrillville, and to the Lake County Government Center and Veterans Administration hospital in Crown Point.
It will be named the Ivy Tech South Broadway Shuttle after Ivy Tech Community College agreed to buy naming-rights in a $400 per month, two-year deal.
Ivy Tech Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Keisha White said that when discussions about supporting the shuttle service began, "everything just kind of gelled together."
The shuttle gives students from the northern part of the county access to the Crown Point campus, "no car needed, no gas needed. We thought that was a great investment," White said.
The new services will mean adjustments for some passengers. Instead of direct service, a ride to TelePerformance in Hobart, for example, will require a transfer at 61st Avenue and Broadway; a ride to the Lake County Government Center will require a transfer at Century Plaza.
The changes allow GPTC to "straighten out" its Broadway route, GPTC Planning Marketing Manager David Wright said. He noted those sites, too, will have more frequent service.
The project will include a summer bonus for passengers — partnerships with Catholic Charities, Faith Farms and Orchards and Stewart House Urban Farm and Gardens to offer fresh produce "pop-up" markets occasionally during the summer.
Preparation for the Broadway Metro Express service has included $9.5 million in roadway and bus-stop improvements funded by Gary, Merrillville, the Gary Sanitary District, the Legacy Foundation and the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Wright said GPTC will engage in marketing and educational efforts in coming weeks to prepare current and potential riders for the service upgrades.
The effort is part of GPTC's Livable Broadway program. For information, visit www.livablebroadway.com.