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Valpo Transit exploring possible service cuts

Valpo Transit

Valpo Transit is exploring possible service cuts.

Transit Director Beth Shrader says commuter services like the ChicaGO Dash were hit particularly hard by the pandemic. And while service is back to 2019 levels, ridership remains around 60 percent. "My hope is that we continue to grow and don't have to reduce service, but we also have to keep in mind that the transit services we operate — they are publicly subsidized," Shrader said during a public hearing Friday.

She said the ChicaGo Dash is seeing its heaviest ridership on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with relatively few passengers on Fridays. A rider survey showed that earlier buses are more popular, but riders didn't want to lose the final Chicago departure, either. Those at Friday's hearing were also worried about making cuts at a time when more employers are requiring workers to return to the office.

Shrader agreed that ridership has been up recently. "We have seen, in the past, I guess, almost three weeks now, a boost in ridership post-Labor Day," Shrader said. "And we hope to see that trend continue, and maybe that affects our decision."

Meanwhile, the South Shore Connect, which links Valparaiso to the Dune Park South Shore station, continues to see low ridership, due to the pandemic, as well as Double Track construction. A one-way ticket costs two dollars, but Shrader said the actual cost to provide the trip is closer to $168, since there are so few people on each bus.

"Our ridership data shows that Fridays and weekends are higher, so something we've considered in lieu of like a pause of Connect Service would be: can we just do it Friday, Saturday, Sunday?" Shrader explained.

Still, there were concerns that cuts would impact travel to Valparaiso University. One driver, whose job would be at risk due to the potential cuts, urged the city to hold off until the Double Track project is complete.

In any case, Shrader said Valparaiso is proud of its transit system, and officials hope to avoid reducing service. "We see both the Connect and the Dash as an economic development tool," Shrader added. "It allows people to live, recreate, spend money in Valparaiso, while keeping their jobs in Chicago."

Any potential cuts would have to be approved by the city's board of works.