Travelers have a way to DASH to Chicago

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Featured

Published on August 15, 2011 with No Comments

by Mike Siroky

 With rising gas prices, prohibitive traffic jams and the costs of parking in a big city, Valparaiso residents (and those from adjacent communities) have a way to beat the Chicago traffic, Chicago parking and still make the easy trek to one of the world’s great cities on a weekday basis.

ChicaGo DASH is a bus service which originates in Valparaiso and makes morning trips to Chicago and return trips in the early evening.

The City of Valparaiso and the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission have funded it, weaving support from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, the Federal Transit Administration and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

Tyler Kent, the city’s transportation manager, oversees the service.

“The overall idea is to allow people who live in Valparaiso an alternative,” Kent said.

“Of course, we draw riders from Chesterton, Lake Station, Michigan City, Kouts, all over.”

The service is federally funded. DASH receives 80 cents for every dollar the city spends on it.

That’s part of a renewable three-year grant. The grant is entering its final half-year, so the new grant application, a renewal, has been made.

“We continue to see a growth in riders, in the regular  ridership we have and in the occasional riders,” said Kent.

Some students use the service to get to schools in Chicago. Some use it for medical appointments in Chicago. Still others are Valparaiso University students taking a day trip.

There are seasonal group riders as well, shoppers or sightseers in the holiday season, for example.

Handicapped Access

DASH is very proud of its handicap access.

Every ChicaGo DASH bus has a wheelchair lift, and drivers are trained to help customers use the lift and secure their wheelchairs safely.

Each bus has two spaces at the rear for passengers in wheelchairs. These spaces include safety belts for extra protection. Once you get to this location, the driver is required to check the belts and make sure your chair is secured.

When it is time to leave the bus, the driver will activate the lift. If needed, the driver will help unbuckle the wheelchair belts and position the chair to face outward on the lift. away from the lift.

Other amenities

Among the amenities on the buses are free Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is a wireless standard for connecting electronic devices. A Wi-Fi enabled device such as a personal computer, video game console, smartphone, and digital audio player can connect to the Internet when within range.

“That allows folks to work on their computers, no downtime, when they are on the bus,” said Kent.

Others will time naps or just share stories with their friends to make the time pass.

What It Has Meant

ChicaGo Dash has meant more than just the service of a ride to and from Chicago.

“These daily success stories are what we had in mind when we envisioned (it),” said Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.

“In 2009, when we launched the ChicaGo Dash express to Chicago, we served a little more than 1,000 riders a month. This year we have more than 4,000 riders board the Dash monthly. Both services are cost-efficient and sustainable for the long term.”

The mayor points out the city benefits in other ways.

“Beyond the conveniences to our community, the services have added value to Valparaiso,” he said.

“First, the ChicaGo Dash attracts 90 to 100 people to our downtown station daily, adding to the vitality of our downtown. Then there are environmental benefits to sharing rides. The Dash won the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for converting commuters from single-occupancy vehicles to a shared bus that reduces traffic and improves air quality. We all win with cleaner air and a more streamlined commute.

“Finally, our transportation services promote employment development. Connecting Valpo workers with good-paying and diversified jobs in our city and in Chicago makes good economic sense. And as gas prices rise, these workers appreciate the economy and convenience of bus service even more.”

DASH Rates

One-way: $7.50; Round trip $15; Month $230; 10-ride Flex Pass (use anytime): $79; the service also accepts RTA Fare checks, which are purchased through employers, the cost is taken out before taxes are applied. Tickets can be purchased with a credit card or with cash, starting a half-hour before departure.

Drivers carry no cash, so exact fare is required.

The Schedules

Valparaiso to Chicago

•Valparaiso’s Village Station, Bus 1: 6 a.m.; Bus 2: 6:20 p.m.; Bus 3: 7:15 p.m.

Arrive Chicago

•333 South Franklin (in front of I Dream of Falafel), Bus 1: 7:15 a.m.; Bus 2: 8 a.m.; Bus 3: 8:36 a.m.

•LaSalle and Wacker (Builder Bank Corner), Bus 1: 7:24 a.m.; Bus 2: 8:09 a.m.; Bus 3: 8:36 a.m.

•Michigan and Randolph (Chase Bank), Bus 1: 7:31 a.m, Bus 2: 8:15 a.m.; Bus 3: 8:56 a.m.

Chicago to Valparaiso

•Michigan and Randolph (Chase Bank), Bus 1: 4:10 p.m, Bus 2: 4:40 p.m.; Bus 3: 5:25 p.m.

•LaSalle and Wacker, Bus 1: 4:17 p.m.; Bus 2: 4:52 p.m.; Bus 3: 5:42 p.m.

•On Franklin Northwest, Bus 1: 4:33 p.m.; Bus 2: 5:05 p.m.’ Bus 3: 5:55 p.m.

Arrive Valparaiso

•Valparaiso’s Village Station, Bus 1: 5:50 p.m.; Bus 2: 6:20 p.m.; Bus 3: 7:15 p.m.

For more information on the DASH service, including pickup points in Valparaiso, call 219-462-1161, find them on Facebook or visit their offices at Franklin House, 58 Campbell Street, Valparaiso.



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About Mike Siroky


All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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