Metra this week announced proposed Electric Line schedule changes that the rail agency says will improve service and attract more customers without increasing costs. The changes include service cuts, mostly on lightly used branch line trains.
Also, the number of mainline trains on Saturday is being reduced.
Metra says the proposed changes reflect a decline in Electric Line ridership in recent years.
In the last six years, ridership on the Electric Line has declined nearly 14 percent, down 1.4 million passenger trips. That’s 61 percent of the total decline in total Metra ridership since 2011, according to a press release issued May 24 announcing the proposed changes.
Major changes on the proposed schedule target Electric Line stops outside the Homewood-Flossmoor area.
Additional service is proposed for Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, where more than 1,700 residential units have been planned or recently constructed.
Copies of the proposed new schedule also are being distributed on Metra Electric trains and downtown stations. In addition, Metra will hold four public meetings to present the schedule changes, answer questions about alternative transportation options and gather feedback about the proposed new schedule.
One meeting is planned for 4 to 7 p.m. June 20 at Flossmoor Village Hall, 2800 Flossmoor Road. Other meetings are planning the week of June 19 in Chicago and Blue Island.
Comments may also be sent to [email protected]. Metra will consider all comments before finalizing the schedule, with a goal of implementing the new schedule later this summer.
“We need to do something to stem the loss of ridership on the Metra Electric Line, which has been declining for years despite the fact that the line has the newest cars and most scheduled trains on our system,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno.
“This new schedule is an effort to make the best use of our existing resources by scheduling our trains in a more efficient way and enhancing service without impacting our budget.”
Metra said the proposed schedule maintains nearly all rush-hour train service on the Metra Electric mainline and improves midday service to hourly from every two hours at stations on the South Side of Chicago between 63rd and Kensington, including the newly rehabilitated 111th Street/Pullman Station near the Pullman National Monument.
Other proposed changes address gaps in service and simplify the schedule and stop patterns. The new schedule also eliminates or combines lightly used trains, mostly on the Blue Island and South Chicago branches, which have seen ridership decline 17.5 and 11.2 percent, respectively, over the past three years.
Metra says it is fine tuning service, such as eliminating a nearly one-hour gap between Train 742, which leaves University Park at 5:48 a.m., and train 700, which leaves University Park at 6:40 a.m. Train 106, which now leaves University Park at 6:34 a.m., would be inserted between those two trains and would instead depart University Park at 6:12 a.m.
Under the plan, lightly used trains on the Blue Island and South Chicago branch lines, mostly early morning and late evening trains, would be eliminated.
Saturday service would be scaled back to better match demand, Metra says. On the mainline, the number of Saturday trains would drop to 40 from 46. However, the rail agency says the Electric Line would continue to have more Saturday trains than any other Metra line.
All Saturday trains would be eliminated on the Blue Island Branch.
”Metra will continue to refine the Metra Electric Line schedule in the years to come based on changing demand in the service area,” the press release states. “All Metra Electric Line customers are asked to review the proposal to learn if their trains would be affected.”