A key phase of a study largely paid for with federal funds has just been concluded. When fully completed, the study will show the feasibility of allowing roll-on bicycles on the South Shore commuter rail line, which runs between South Bend and Chicago. Currently, the South Shore is one of only two light rail lines in the U.S. that deny bicycles access. The study phase just completed, was the acceptance of public comment: comments were overwhelmingly supportive of bikes on trains.
When completed in 2015, the ’Bikes on Trains’ Study will largely be an engineering study, according to the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC); it will weigh the advantages and problems of bikes on trains, and list a series of preferred alternatives. The study is a collaborative effort between NIRPC, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District (NICTD), and Save the Dunes. But most cyclists don’t want to wait for 2015, and many tourism and environmental organizations don’t want to wait either: they want a pilot project this year.
A small group of advocates has been meeting periodically, formulating a plan to get a trial run in 2014. The ultimate goal is to help the NICTD to allow a few bikes on a few trains over a one week period this summer. But as Leslie Phemister said, “We’ll be happy to get just one bike on one train.” The group of advocates is led by the Active Transportation Alliance (formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation), and joined by The Bike Michiana Coalition, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, Bike the Bend and others. Phemister is currently compiling a written proposal which will suggest stops that can physically accommodate roll-ons, and some off-peak trains that should not be so crowded that a bike would be a hindrance to other passengers. Once this proposal is presented, it will be time for cyclist and alternative transportation advocates to step forward and encourage action.
For more background information, you can read a Chicago Tribune article that was printed on September 13, 2013.