GPTC LOOKING TO EXPAND BUS SERVICE
HAMMOND — Gary Public Transportation Corp. buses soon could travel to the Purdue University Calumet campus, 165th Street retail corridor, Ultra in Highland and perhaps even northern Hammond under proposed changes revealed Monday.
GPTC spokesman David Wright told about a dozen people attending a public forum at the Hammond Public Library that staff recommends two options: realigning the current regional route so buses would travel down Indianapolis Boulevard to downtown Hammond and adding a local feeder to serve south Hammond and parts of Highland and Munster.
A third option, covering northern Hammond, Whiting and the lakefront, could be added if an outside source pitches in the additional $71,000 needed, Wright said.
“We can only do Option B (north Hammond) or C (south Hammond) with the money we have. Option C serves more people and has more key locations,” Wright said.
He said the south Hammond feeder also would provide access to more jobs.
Wright said the cost to implement the two recommended changes would be $328,570, half of which would come from federal grant money. The full cost to implement the north Hammond route would be $140,115.
Possible funding sources for the north route include Calumet College of St. Joseph, the city of Hammond and the city of Whiting, all of which would be served by the route, he said.
Wright said a July 2013 survey showed the Gary and East Chicago casinos, 165th Street retail corridor, South Indianapolis Boulevard, South Calumet Avenue and PUC were in the highest demand from potential riders. The study was conducted online, on Facebook and Twitter, he said.
“We got responses from people in most Northwest Indiana communities. Forty-six percent of responses weren’t from Gary,” Wright said.
Teresa Torres, executive director of Everybody Counts in Merrillville, commended GPTC for taking the step to expand its fixed route and demand-response paratransit services.
“Our agency absolutely commends GPTC for its continued interest in the people. We’re extremely proud and happy to support them,” Torres said.
Mary Lee Vance, a fairly new Hammond resident who works at Purdue Calumet, asked several questions, including where the city of Hammond is in providing support for the new routes.
Wright said the city has been open to discussion. The next steps are to publicize the proposed changes, get feedback and hold a public hearing March 6 in Gary.
“We still need to have a public hearing. We just wanted input today from Hammond residents. It’s their area that will be affected,” Wright said.