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Valparaiso suspending South Shore Connect bus service on Jan. 1

Valpo Transit

Valparaiso is pausing its South Shore Connect service, effective January 1. It provides bus transportation between the parking lot near Journeyman Distillery, Valparaiso University and the Dune Park South Shore station.

Transit Director Beth Shrader feels the service never got a chance to gain momentum after launching in 2019 — first because of the COVID pandemic, then because Double Track construction forced passengers to transfer onto another bus to get to their train. "The average daily ridership is five," Shrader told the Valparaiso Board of Works on Friday. "That's six round trips, and so that means that on average, we have at least one empty bus running."

Valpo Transit will continue to provide its rush-hour ChicaGo Dash service to downtown Chicago. But the South Shore Connect also provided some off-peak service and gave riders a way to get to South Bend International Airport.

Valparaiso Mayor Matt Murphy said the pause makes sense, but he added that Double Track and other upcoming improvements to the South Shore Line will be a game changer. "I just think it would be cool to be able to park down at the TOD and go to South Bend Airport, you can go into the city, and not have to drive to Dune Park or wherever you hop on. So it's kind of a cool thing, but the timing of it was terrible. You couldn't have picked a worse time to try it," Murphy said.

The board of works agreed to pause the South Shore Connect service for now. Shrader said she plans to make a recommendation by next August on whether to eliminate it permanently or come up with ways to reorganize it once Double Track construction is done. That could mean asking Valparaiso University to help with the cost, as it does for the local V-Line service.

"Going through the process of considering elimination has brought to light how much the service is valued by the university and some of the students," Shrader said.

She said the actual cost to provide the service is about $165 per ride. After fare revenue and grant reimbursement are taken into account, it still costs the city about $23 per ride.