The Journal Gazette
Thursday, February 18, 2021 1:00 am

Regaining steam

Momentum for rail travel picks up

Tom Smith

One of the best-kept secrets for many Fort Wayne travelers who want to take a train to downtown Chicago is the South Shore Line.

The South Shore is a local commuter train that goes from the South Bend airport to the Millennium Station at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street in the heart of downtown Chicago. That final stop drops you off across from the Chicago Art Institute.

The South Shore route has always inspired me to want a commuter train that runs between Fort Wayne and the Indianapolis metro area via Muncie.

Muncie is the key midpoint stop that would serve the many people who commute to the Ball State University campus from our state's two biggest cities, as well as those traveling between the two cities and beyond.

The convenience of having in-state intercity passenger train service, such as a Fort to Indy line, will help stimulate new population and economic growth in local communities and larger economic development areas alike.

In Fort Wayne, there is renewed discussion about the value of faster interstate passenger trains running between Ohio and Chicago that cross the top tier of Indiana, similar to the Indiana Toll Road.

All passenger rail options are valuable, but some may be more vital, cost effective and equitable for all of Indiana than just the upper 20% or so the state.

I want our infrastructure dollars spent on train service spread as evenly as possible across all regions of our state.

To that end, I put funding the Fort to Indy line in the pole position. Another good ensuing choice, for example, could be a commuter train running between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

To realize these possibilities, I would like to see our state's colleges, universities and their regional campuses form a Higher Ed Commuter Coalition to work with state, federal and local governments to help plan, design and fund affordable next-level transit systems and services throughout Indiana. The ideas are out there.

The South Shore's Indiana home is South Bend. It's also the home of its former mayor, Pete Buttigieg, now our nation's new secretary of transportation. 

His firsthand experience with commuter train service gives many Hoosiers hope that more passenger trains will be rolling in Indiana in the near future.

The South Shore Line is a great example of commuter train service anywhere in the Midwest.

While driving to South Bend takes longer than going to Waterloo to catch Amtrak to Chicago, the South Shore has an indoor station with ample parking.

Plus it's very punctual and doesn't pollute because it's an electric train. It's also an enjoyable ride, so give it a try.

Hopefully, the “all aboard” call will be heard way more often. 

Tom Smith is a former member of Fort Wayne City Council and the Fort Wayne Community Schools board.

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