Census data show out-of-county commutes common for NWI residents
BY Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org March 5, 2013 5:12PM
Traffic flows Eastbound on the Borman Expressway in this Post-Tribune file photo. | File~Sun-Times Media
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the top 10 sources of commuters to Lake and Porter counties are:
1. 22,741 people from Porter County to Lake County
2. 12,768 people from Cook County, Ill., to Lake county
3. 8,434 people from Lake County to Porter County
4. 4,183 people from LaPorte County to Porter County
5. 2,864 people from Jasper County to Lake County
6. 2,286 people from LaPorte County to Lake County
7. 1,995 people from Will County to Lake County
8. 1,315 people from Newton County to Lake County
9. 1,092 people from Jasper County to Porter County
10. 663 people from Starke County to Porter County
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:28AM
Tuesday’s weather didn’t bode well for Sharon Jackson’s trip home.
Although all drivers in the region had to combat the weather, Jackson faced driving in the poor weather from her job as a morning show host with Lakeshore radio in Merrillville to her home in Brookfield, Ill., normally a 45-minute drive in good weather.
“In snow, it’s a real pain,” Jackson said.
She wasn’t alone in Northwest Indiana. According to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau, 48,118 people commute from other counties to work in Lake County. For Porter County, 16,403 people commute in.
The numbers are even higher for people commuting from Lake and Porter counties. In Lake County, about 31 percent of workers, or 65,374 people, commute outside of the county for work. About 46 percent of Porter County residents, or 34,628 people, leave the county for work.
Cook County, Ill., is the most popular work destination for Lake County residents, who rank in the top 1 percent in the country for specific county-to-county commutes.
Hoosier commuters — 63,276 of them to Illinois — also rank high among state-to-state commuters at 15th in the country. Residents of Lake and Porter counties make up 93 percent of those commuters.
Jackson joined the ranks of commuters in 2008, after she was laid off from her job in Chicago and found her new one at Lakeshore Public Radio.
“I don’t mind the time,” she said. “It’s really the expense that’s the biggest concern.”
The long drive means Jackson has to spend more on gas, oil changes and other car maintenance expenses. Although she knew it would cost her more when she first took the job in Merrillville, Jackson said, she didn’t realize then just how much it costs.
However, Jackson also doesn’t expect to see the commute end anytime soon. She’s tied to Brookfield because she owns a home, and she loves her job at Lakeshore.
One positive to the drive is her early work hours, so Jackson doesn’t have to deal with Chicago traffic.
“That’s huge,” Jackson said. “ ... I don’t have to deal with getting stuck in gridlock traffic.”
Craig De Myer comes from the opposite direction for his job as registrar at Indiana University Northwest. The Plymouth resident has driven the 90-minute commute ever since he took the job in August 2012.
De Myer was already making a 45-minute commute to the Indiana University campus in South Bend, so the idea of spending a lot of time in the car didn’t phase him when the new job opportunity came up.
“It hasn’t been too bad,” he said. “Obviously, the weather has played a pretty good role.”
De Myer has brought a change of clothes with him in the past, in case he needed to stay the night at a local hotel instead of brave the drive back home. He hasn’t had to use that backup plan yet, De Myer said.
He’s also able to work from home, as he did Tuesday, if the weather is treacherous.
De Myer’s wife owns a real estate business in Plymouth, and the empty nesters also own lake property near Warsaw, so for now they’ve decided it’s worth it to stay put.
The drive also gives De Myer a chance to unwind. He usually listens to radio news for a bit before turning on a book on CD.
“Before you know it, you’re home,” he said.
De Myer knows others with long commutes, including a Demotte resident he works with at IUN in Gary.
The number of commuters shows why Northwest Indiana and the rest of the Midwest needs better rail transportation, Raj Selladurai, director of the Small Business Institute at IUN, said. Selladurai leads a team of IU researches studying high-speed rail.
“We are the most developed, most advance country, yet when it comes to rail transportation, we are not using the potential of what we are capable of,” he said.
Selladurai said the numbers give support to expanding the South Shore commuter rail line, with a new line between Chicago and Lowell. He said diverting commuters to trains will help them save money and also help improve commuter safety, as more people die in motor vehicle accidents than as train passengers.
“The extended South Shore would be a real benefit,” he said.