A La Porte County Life in the Spotlight: Michael Noland

A La Porte County Life in the Spotlight: Michael Noland

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” So goes the title of the classic Dr. Suess book. Whether it be by plane, bus, or car, and for Michael Noland especially, the train, the possibilities are endless here in northwest Indiana. As president of the South Shore Line, Noland is responsible for ensuring that the train system is safe, efficient, accessible, and reliable; a commuter rail system designed to serve the needs of northwest Indiana now and for the next 100 years. 

Before coming to the region, Noland grew up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and went to Glenbard West High School. He was recruited to attend the University of Notre Dame where he was a pole vaulter for the track team and often rode the South Shore Line to and from school. Soon after graduation from college, he married his wife Carrie who he met in high school. Carrie and Mike just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this January. Post graduation, Noland and his wife moved to the northside of Chicago, where he got a job working for the Chicago area commuter rail system, Metra. While working full-time, Noland went to law school attending the evening program at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. After living in Lincoln Park for six years, he and Carrie moved back to Glen Ellyn where they raised their three children for the next 28 years. 

“I held various positions during the 28 years I spent at Metra, including Chief Human Resources Officer, General Counsel, and Deputy Executive Director,” Noland said. “I spent nearly three decades at Metra before leaving in 2010.” 

After Metra, Noland worked for a private sector freight railroad holding company headquartered in Chicago with locations in 9 states and Great Britain before he became the president of the South Shore Line in October 2014. As president, Noland knew he wanted to quickly implement the company’s 20-year strategic plan and bring to reality the incredible improvements that he knew the plan would deliver to the riders and the residents of the region. With the help of his team at the South Shore Line, and huge support from all over northwest Indiana at the local, county, state and federal level, he launched two big projects, the $650 million Double Track Northwest Indiana project, adding 18 miles of new track on the South Shore Line between Michigan City and Gary Indiana and the West Lake Corridor project, a $950 million line extension project off the South Shore Line from north Hammond to the Munster/Dyer border. The Double Track project will be completed this coming May 2024, followed by the completion of the West Lake Corridor project in May 2025. When both projects are completed, Noland anticipates that not only will residents enjoy significantly improved commuter rail service to and from Chicago, but it will also help promote over $2.5 billion in transit-oriented development in the communities along both train lines. 

“When I got here in 2014, the railroad had already been rebuilt from the ground up,” Noland said. “The vision contained in the 20-year strategic plan to improve the railroad in such an incredible way was made possible because of the hard work and investment in the railroad’s base infrastructure. We could not have made the investments in the rail that that we are making now if this had not happened.” 

“There is no doubt that these massive infrastructure investments will greatly improve commuter rail service here in northwest Indiana,” Noland said. Adding further, “The projects will deliver better system accessibility through high-level boarding that will also allow for additional stations to be added to the extremely popular bikes on trains program.” In addition, he noted, “The investments will result in improved on-time performance, more frequency of trains, and significantly reduced travel time to and from Chicago.”

The nearly $1.6 billion investment in these commuter rail infrastructure projects represents the largest investment in public transit in the history of the State of Indiana. Noland expressed his gratitude to the South Shore Line employees, the communities who have been impacted by the massive construction projects, local, county and state elected officials, and Indiana’s Congressional delegation for helping bring the funding necessary to take these visions from the drawing board to reality. He also called out Governor Eric Holcomb, who he called “the South Shore Line’s biggest champion” for his unwavering support over the past 8 years, and retired Congressman Pete Visclosky who “had decades long passion to improve our commuter rail system.”

Noland reflected on his journey as president of the South Shore Line.

 “Sometimes I'll go out and stand on one of our new high-level platforms, or drive along the newly constructed right-of-way, look at what we've built, and literally pinch myself because it's hard to believe that we’ve finally gotten to this point,” Noland said. “It's been over 10 years of hard work, plus decades of effort before I even got here,” he said adding, “To see it nearly finished is an incredible feeling.”

While Noland enjoyed the time he spent in the Chicago area, he really loves his new home in Long Beach, Indiana. When he and Carrie lived in Glen Ellyn, they vacationed with their family every year along Lake Michigan. When the opportunity to lead the South Shore Line was offered to him ten years ago, which would require him to relocate to northwest Indiana and live near Lake Michigan, he and Carrie jumped at the chance. When he is not spending time running the South Shore Line or overseeing the construction of the two mega infrastructure projects, Noland loves to spend time with his wife, children and three grandchildren. He loves to ski and play golf and said one of his favorite things to do is, “just spending time at the lake and enjoying sunsets over the City of Chicago, that never gets old,” he said.