The South Shore Line, both passenger and freight operations, currently operates through Michigan City on track embedded into the street along 10th and 11th Street. This type of on-street operation (i.e. “street running”), was once fairly common practice in the United States, particularly prevalent for “electric interurban” trains like the South Shore Line which initiated service in 1903.
Street running is a practice that dates back to a time before the automobile. Although appropriate for streetcar and light rail systems, NICTD feels it is inconsistent with current operational and safety standards of commuter passenger and freight train service. On-street operation greatly increases the travel times of a commuter passenger and freight operation. In addition, it poses certain operational complications for both NICTD and the City as maintenance of the track infrastructure often interferes with street operations. Also, this type of railroad operation often poses a safety hindrance to vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians who need to share the road with very large train cars.
Modern street running operations, such as streetcars and light rail systems are becoming prevalent in cities throughout the United States. However, the goal of these systems is to serve short distances within urban settings with the goal of picking up and dropping off passengers every few blocks. This type of service is in contrast to a commuter passenger operation which has the goal of fast running operations and infrequent stops over longer distances.
As the needs of public transportation have change, the results of train performance will also need to change to accommodate public demands. Therefore, this study will identify the changes that are needed in order to improve the service and passenger amenities to better accommodate the residents and visitors of Michigan City.