By many accounts, Americans are driving much less often than they have at times in the past. You wouldn’t know it if you live in Northwest Indiana, though, because frankly, with few exceptions, there is little alternative to cars for navigating the suburban communities that make up The Region. The South Shore line can get you to Chicago much cheaper than driving there and parking in the city, and also take you from one town to the next. But unless you’re final destination is Chicago, you won’t be getting around much without a set of wheels.
The opportunity to drive much less would seem very attractive to Region residents financially. It’s expensive to fill up a car. Even a regular midsize model could set you back around sixty bucks at the pump.
One possible way to reduce driving is using a ride-for-hire organization. There’s not a strong taxi service infrastructure in the Region, but online apps like Lyft or Uber have changed the hired ride game. With either service, it’s easy to find a driver anyplace, and all through an app on your phone. But they cost as much as a standard cab fare, sometimes more.
A better, more complete solution would be a public transit system. A great model for this would be the Valparaiso V-Line. It’s a thorough system, with stops near every major business center, school, government office, the South Shore station and Valparaiso University, as well as within walking distance of residential areas. A fare is only a dollar each time, or $30 for a month, less than filling up the car every month.
The only question is: will people would use it? While a V-Line-like transportation system could save them money, using such a system would mean residents would have to conform to its schedule. Driving themselves, they can be on their own schedule, and do their routine at their convenience.
I attended Valpo University for a year, and while living on campus, I used the V-line for going to the store or catching a movie at the theater. It was free for students, so lots of them used it. So did many Valpo residents. It was relatively new at the time (2008-09), but it ran smoothly and conveniently.
Then again, the V-Line was much smaller then, and mostly centered on the University and main downtown area. Now it’s much bigger, with more routes and stops in every corner of the town. It’s probably safe to say that such an expansion wouldn’t have taken place if the service wasn’t a success.