Written by James B. Dworkin, Chancellor of Purdue University North Central
As Chancellor of Purdue University North Central, I strongly support the expansion of commuter rail service in Northwest Indiana. By expanding the region's connectivity to Chicago, we will grow jobs, opportunity and incomes for the residents of Northwest Indiana.
The Chicago metro area is the eighth-largest economy by GDP in the world and second only to New York and Los Angeles in the U.S. There are 4.5 million jobs in and around Chicago MSA, which on average pay 40% more than their Indiana counterparts. Enabling area residents to take advantage of Chicago wage premiums while also benefiting from Indiana's lower cost of living presents very desirable economic opportunities for Northwest Indiana.
U.S. Census data shows that Northwest Indiana residents do not commute into Cook County at nearly the same rates as their Illinois suburb counterparts. Approximately 20% of Lake County residents and 6% of Porter County residents commute into Cook County. In comparison, between 29% and 40% of residents in Illinois collar counties commute into Cook County. Increasing the capacity and decreasing travel times on the NICTD rail network are vital and necessary steps in making high paying jobs in Chicago more accessible to Northwest Indiana residents.
The West Lake Corridor Project is projected to carry approximately 5,600 riders when operational. This is a 40% increase over current South Shore ridership. The commuter income generated by the West Lake Corridor would be $147.3 million annually, a 62% increase over the $237.5 million that the South Shore line commuters now bring back to Northwest Indiana.
The South Shore line with the West Lake Corridor investment will also create overall efficiencies for the region's transportation networks. These investments will save approximately 300,000 vehicle miles traveled daily - saving time, conserving fuel, decreasing congestion and reducing environmental damage for the citizens of Northwest Indiana.
For these reasons, I urge that action be taken to expand commuter rail as soon as possible.