Update on South Shore Line Expansion

It’s been a while since I posted on the possibility of South Shore Expansion – mainly because it ended up being a nonissue (Valparaiso didn’t want any commuter trains coming to them to begin with, and in the end it seemed that the expansion was looked at out of duty instead of actual desire and forward planning), my enthusiasm for the project nonwithstanding. However, there are plans afoot and it looks like they’re serious for once.

To start with, though, we’re talking about a smaller footprint – nearly a Stub line in many ways, as the plan only goes so far as the Dyer-Munster city limits. I would have thought they would have wanted to at least go as far as to the Dyer Amtrak station and turn that into a true stop instead of what has to be seen now as a glorified Amshack (it is nice, but since there’s no ticketing and the station is used but twice a day…), but it appears that future plans for the West Lake line involve a station closer to US 30 in Dyer itself, and a station at the present Dyer Amtrak station would probably cause problems – especially once commuter-based development starts near the station, wherever it may be placed. Maybe they could move the Dyer Amtrak station where the South Shore Station is when the South Shore is finally extended south from the Dyer-Munster border.

How serious is this?Read More »

Further Update On My Job (and what’s going on around me while I’m at it)

Just so you know, when I last talked about my job things were going pretty well for me. While people working mornings were taking hits on their hours, the afternoon people were getting full days and sometimes more. While whole areas were getting removed from regular (medicaid) service, the core of the service seemed to be going on as usual.

Well, things seem to have changed yet again. Now the afternoon people are getting hit, mainly by pushing the start times a bit later. Not only that, but the boss has actually grown a backbone with workers who pick days off – a driver who decided to take a weekend off without warning was given a week off.

Granted, it’s about time – after all, it’s patently unfair for the morning crew to suffer all the pain from the dropoff in business. However, I wonder if there’s going to be some other impacts on the job.

Such as the ability to take time off whenever I want/need.

Since we’re talking about less people at work as time goes by, the remaining people will become more and more necessary. Since the remaining people will become necessary, time off will become rarer and more precious…or even nonexistent. I can see myself working the last months of my job (assuming it dies off) seven days a week, 14+ hours a day because they only need a few people to do everything.

Meanwhile the area becomes more and more deserted-looking. The factories that once pumped jobs in the area have been getting torn down, some extremely rapidly. While there’s still an excess of housing, that is being shrunken down – not by people buying houses (WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL THE ECONOMISTS THAT HOUSING IS NOT AN ECONOMIC ENGINE AND THAT CALLING IT THAT IS JUST HIDING THE FACT THAT THERE’S NO LONGER AN ECONOMY?????) but by the local housing falling apart in an increasingly rapid rate. No news will comment on that, just something I see driving around. Malls are getting emptier (if they’re not emptied already) and those malls staying filled have accepted payday loan stores, rent-to-owns and multiple tax return offices to replace the Piano stores, upscale clothing shops and music stores of the past (Yes, there used to be Piano stores. Pianos were a sure sign of a settled, middle class lifestyle that started disappearing during Reagan’s presidency). There’s the constant shrinkage of businesses downtown as lots of once-useful stores are disappearing, replaced by such fufu as massage parlors, hairstyling places (when combined with massage it’s called a “spa” nowadays), Mexican restaurants, payday loan/pawn shop/check cashing/tax return place (yes, they combine nowadays) and antique stores. Even the big box stores are trembling as their customers find themselves with nothing.

Meanwhile people order online, happy in knowing that Amazon.com still doesn’t pay taxes (yes, Virginia, even “Liberals” cheer when they gyp the state they live in, which Amazon always tries to do). These same people cheer when factories that once gave workers a living wage are torn down to make “Green Space” and bellyache when someone wants to do something to improve things that doesn’t involve tourism or bike-friendly pathways (never mind most people get to and from places only in cars, using the bike paths for recreation on the weekends).

– – – – – – – – – –

It seems that the United States of America only has enough money to give to the rich, either directly or indirectly. Can’t get veggies to the city kids so they’ll eat something other than Doritos (nor can we teach their mothers how to cook) yet we fund Monsanto’s constant suing of everyone who chooses non-GMO’d seeds. Can’t fund Medicare or Medicaid properly anymore, so we gotta make sure the rich can take their Medical Vacations (they pay less for the whole Angioplasty plus a week’s tourism than I pay for a night at the hospital for a fake heart attack!). Gotta pull eyeteeth to save GM and Chrysler, but a bank whispers “I need more profits” and we hand it to them without asking or even checking up on things. Can’t fund a purchase on a new house, but Trump’s new castle for the nomadic elite – up and running.

And I’m left watching the detrius of the world left behind. Houses collapsing, malls emptying out and/or downclassing. People saying “we can’t afford anything” while supporting those who cut everything down to fund their xanadus.

Build Mass Transit? We can build enough to insure it fails.

Build Expressways, then? Just well enough to we can watch it fall apart in front of our eyes.

New Electrical Grid? Why, when the good (read: wealthy enough) can get their own generators to pollute the air for the poor around them?

Decline? Sure, as long as the rich get to watch millions die at the hand of their starving neighbors.

Welcome to 1984, only Orwell ended up blind as to what happened ten years after Winston Smith was shot… Who would have thought that Winston Smith ended up the lucky one?

I Remember When I-94 Used To Be Merely Backed Up!

When I first moved into the Northwest Indiana area ten years ago (it’s getting near that date) I had grown used to I-80/94 backing up anywhere from near Calumet Avenue (thank goodness for the merge in/out lane) to past the Indiana Toll Road. Eventually people could make it through, if they stuck on it long enough.

Then they rebuilt the road. It was expanded to four lanes between Broadway and I-294, and they even made the section underneath the intersection four lanes. So now the road rarely backs up.

Only now it closes.

It closed for a few days last year. That time they said some bit of machinery didn’t work the way it was supposed to, and I-80/94 became flooded because of it.

This year the closing has grown so bad that the blockages have expanded. This time I-65 north from US 24 has been closed down for traffic control. All because a dike broke near Kennedy Avenue.

I don’t know about you, but I remember a road that almost never closed. Now we’re talking about a road that closes down every other year, it seems.

Something is VERY wrong.

Looking Again at South Shore Expansion

So now the on-again, off-again expansion of the South Shore Line to Valparaiso seems to be on again, even if one of the so-called supporters seems to want to put up a ballot to dismantle the South Shore LIne instead of expand it.

Problem is, now they’re reconsidering all the plans again, including a plan to split the South Shore from Gary instead of Hammond or in Illinois.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

First, here’s the “favored” expansion plan, going from Hammond/Hegewisch to Munster, then Valpo/Lowell:

Route through Munster, with second line to Lowell

It was the running plan, in part because of the NICTD’s ownership of a right-of-way from Hammond to Munster. It also has the possibility of expanding service to the southern part of Lake County, with benefits spreading into Illinois. Also, many of the proposed rail stops along the line would actually be open to transit-friendly development, allowing for the ability of the line to survive on its own, instead of just a commuting line to and from Chicago.

Its main disadvantage is that it runs over the main Canadian National (CN) line, which can see over forty trains a day. CN wants the Northwest Indiana Transit Authority to pay for a third rail line along the CN portion of the route, and at over $1 million/mile, it won’t come cheap.

Read More »

Seen what now happens to uninhabited houses?

Almost every day I drive around the Northwest Indiana area, and while most of the area is filled with used housing and busy businesses, Gary is a town well on the way down, with many empty houses and empty storefronts.

What’s really sad about all this is watching all the houses slowly stripped and gutted. Wherever theres’ aluminum siding, it gets stripped off a few rows at a time. Sometimes you see the stuff underneath it, other times there’s nothing but the original material sheltering the house from the outside; and sometimes you see the stuff that’s supposed to be the protection underneath (let’s say there’s worse stuff to put up than chip board; I’ve seen it).

And when buildings of any sort are abandoned, the windows get busted and the insides get gutted. Plumbing and wiring are stripped, porcelain and kitchen items are carted out of the house, and the walls are knocked down in search of hidden treasure. Eventually the building burns down, or collapses under its own weight and decay.

I remember back in the seventies there was this one house in our neighborhood that was pretty much uninhabited throughout much of the seventies. I even remember walking through it a couple times, both times finding it both intact and with pickles stored in the cupboards. In the early eighties I toured through the neighborhood and saw that the house was rehabbed and reinhabited.

Try doing that with a house in Gary nowadays. Nowadays you’d be better off letting the house burn down and rebuild a house with vinyl siding, PVC plumbing and chip board for walls. At least you can put up multiple layers of insulation so you won’t get too cool in the winter (or too warm in the summer, as long as you use trees to shade you).

Of course, that’s not the only stuff getting pilfered. That’s right, Catalytic Converters are being stolen for money. People are crawling underneath your car, cutting a few nuts or connections, and running off with the thing that makes your car’s exhaust cleaner.

Why? Because there’s some rare metals in the Catalytic Converters; stuff that can bring lots of money for someone desperate enough to stuck themselves under your car (or SUV, which is easier than people think). So a lot of Meth heads, crack heads and other druggies go underneath and start sawing stuff apart to get at the converters.

Now, ask yourself: When stuff can’t stand around anymore without it getting gutted and ruined, what does that mean for our nation? What is meant when we’re now stuck with a quickly-developing scavenger class?

I’ll tell you what it means: We’re on the quick path to third-world status. No longer can the United States consider itself fully first-world, as first-world nations are wealthy enough to not need to tear itself apart for money.

Yes, there were scavengers around even back in the seventies. When non-returnable bottles and cans became the standard for pop and beer drinking, people would leave them things all along the side of the road; people would collect them and get a few cents out of them. Occasionally you’d hear of people who scavenged for a living and ended up paying their kid’s way through college, but they were always myths everyone had heard but never knew about.

Now they’re around, looking for the next tweekend’s high and not letting usage or ownership get in their way. And our currency and system has gotten so bad that metals now cost enough for the scavengers to profit.

It’s getting ugly.

Gary Suffers from Closed Grocery Stores

You know, this actually looked like a year of some good news for Gary. While too many houses caught fire and burned up, while too many windows started getting busted, while Chicago gangs started taking over neighborhoods throughout Gary, there were two grocery stores that actually opened up! One was a rebuild of an old store, another was new.

Well…

First the rebuild burned down after one month of being open. Heard lots of residents mourning the fresh produce and convenience lost when that building burned down. Many think it was arson.

Then this!

I hope this is temporary; otherwise Gary, a city which had suffered much over the past year, looks to have lost yet another battle in the war against the forces arrayed against it — gangs, industrial aging and abandonment, disinvestment, red-lining, gangs, ghettoization, ugly reputation, etc.

Don’t You Just Love Modern-Day Planning…

…with its inability to plan ahead for growth?

The key for me is the bottom article, with its focus on the South Shore:

The problem is, according to Parsons, the number of riders during rush hour is near capacity, about 97 percent of the NICTD fleet is in use every day, and the time frame for purchasing new equipment is two years.”We really don’t have much room to handle additional people and provide everyone a seat,” Parsons said. “(The Skyway construction) is just going to exacerbate our capacity problems.”

In other words, they have no space to add on cars or trains.

Isn’t Metra Electric Getting some new cars? With potties? Why don’t they loan us a couple of trains while we go through this problem?

Heck, I can see an addition to a couple of CTA lines which would free up plenty of space on the Electric for South Shore Service.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a resident, I don’t know enough to be an expert…