Quicker Broadway bus service on schedule for 2017 - September 8, 2016

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • September 8, 2016

By Andrew Steele

GARY — Passengers riding Broadway on Gary Public Transportation Corp. can expect a quicker trip and more frequent service in a year, after the agency institutes its Broadway Rapid bus service.

The service will increase to 20 minutes the frequency of buses along the primary stretch from the Adam Benjamin Metro Center on 4th Avenue to Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus on Broadway in Merrillville. Currently buses depart every 30 minutes.

The buses on the rapid routes will make fewer stops and decrease travel times 12 to 30 percent, said David Wright, GPTC’s planning and marketing director, during an afternoon of meetings with a project working group and with the public.

The GPTC board has narrowed to two the route plans for the new rapid service. Both plans have the 20-minute interval from Metro Center to Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus.

From there, in one plan, buses would alternate between going to the Purdue Technology Center farther south on Broadway, and to the Lake County Government Center at 93rd Avenue and Main Street. The Purdue center is home to an Ivy Tech community college campus.

The other plan would have passengers riding on from Methodist transfer to shuttle buses that would go to the Purdue center, the government center, and possibly south on Broadway to 109th Avenue in Crown Point.

The first option offers a one-seat ride through the route; the second is more efficient for GPTC, and adds other potential stops.

The agency is asking residents to vote on which option they prefer. The board will hold a public hearing and decide the matter Oct. 6.

“Most of the people traveling this corridor are getting off somewhere between Gary Metro Center and Broadway Methodist,” Wright noted. There would be 82 trips per day along that route under either scenario.

The project’s capital costs total about $9.5 million, Wright said, much of it coming from the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“Most of that is the resurfacing of the Broadway corridor from downtown Gary to 61st Avenue and beyond that,” Wright said.

Bus stops through Gary and Merrillville also will have new shelters, funded by federal grants and matching funds from the city and town. Funds from Gary’s facade improvement program, and from Legacy Foundation, are also potential aids in creating more attractive shelters, Wright said.

Bids on the road work, shelters and other infrasctructure improvements are expected to be awarded in February, Wright said.

A federal grant of $3.1 million also will assist in covering operational expenses, Wright said, which are expected to be about $1.25 million per year.

“It allows innovative bus services to become mature,” Wright said of the grant.

GPTC is also in discussions with Merrillville, Hobart and Portage about feeder services in those communities to GPTC service.

The GPTC board has another decision in October — a name for the new system. An poll produced Broadway Metro Express as a strong plurality’s preference.