Hobart comments positively on state border race | Hobart News

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HOBART – Based on feedback Monday, Hobartites don’t mind sharing a bus with Valparaiso runners, even a few times a week.

The City of Hobart and Valparaiso Transit held a community center meeting to determine public interest in a new ChicaGo Dash line passing through Hobart.

ChicaGo Dash is an express bus service connecting downtown Valparaiso to downtown Chicago. The service uses 53-passenger coaches.

“I’m really excited about this,” said resident Myra Cseke. “It could create a lot of employment opportunities in Hobart.”

Cseke was among more than 30 people to offer comments and ask questions about the bus service, launched in 2009 by former Valparaiso mayor Jon Costas as a tool for economic development.

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Beth Shrader, director of planning and public transport for the city of Valparaiso, explained that her community and Hobart had discussed the possibility of creating a new line in Hobart. A bus stop is under consideration at Jubilee Church, 415 N. Hobart Rd. (Ind. 51), which is already on the ChicaGo Dash route.

“We’re looking to expand in Valparaiso,” Shrader said, adding, “It makes sense to stop in Hobart.”

Don Lorntzen, public transit manager for the city of Valparaiso, explained that the bus service currently offers two stops in Valparaiso and three in the Chicago Loop. The service operates weekdays, five days a week.

COVID-19 has impacted ridership, Lorntzen noted, going from 1,600 runners to 570 runners per week.

Hobart is being considered, the transit official said, because it is on the current route and people have been asking about the possibility.

The purpose of the meeting was Hobart’s contribution. Shrader said a meeting of the Valparaiso Public Works and Safety Board on the issue produced little comment from Hobart’s side.

Hobart resident Michaelene Hojnicki, who works at Sears Tower, said she chose the South Shore line over ChicaGo Dash because she had to leave early to catch the Valparaiso bus and found the journey scary early in the morning.

Pickups in Valparaiso are at 6am, 6:30am and 7am at 270 Brown St. Stops in Chicago are at Franklin Street, LaSalle and Wacker, and Michigan and Randolph, across from Millennium Station. Pickup times are 4:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Lorntzen said buses must adhere to a strict schedule. If the service goes out of rotation, he explained, that is considered a charter.

User fees represent only 12% of ChicaGo Dash’s revenue, with other funding including the city of Valparaiso. Lorntzen said Valparaiso officials had not requested funds from Hobart for the proposed line.

“We want to expand the roads,” Lorntzen said. “We have the funding for that.”

Lorntzen added that there is no set timeline for the proposed new line.

Some residents, including Penny Nunn and Betty Villareal, noted that while many commuters work in Chicago, they want to use the service for leisure activities. Lorntzen replied that the bus service can accommodate them but they would have to find their own way to a specific destination.

Buses, Lorntzen said, have wifi and carry luggage and bicycles.

Other residents cited the environmental impact and the potential for transportation to Chicago airports. Some in the audience were ChicaGo Dash racers. Most said they would use the service 2-3 times a week.

Councilman Josh Huddlestun, D-2nd, reported many requests for the proposed service.

Mayor Brian Snedecor raised the possibility of Lake Station and Portage residents also using the Hobart site.

“I appreciate Valpo for agreeing to consider this,” the mayor said of the bus route.

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