Metra (reporting mark METX) is a commuter railroad in the Chicago metropolitan area. The railroad operates 242 stations on 11 different rail lines. It is the fourth busiest commuter rail system in the United States by ridership and the largest and busiest commuter rail system outside the New York City metropolitan area. There were 83.4 million passenger rides in 2014, up 1.3% from the previous year. The estimated busiest day for Metra ridership occurred on November 4, 2016—the day of the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series victory rally.
Using Chicago's rail infrastructure, much of which dates to the 1850s, the Illinois General Assembly established the parent Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), and later Metra, focused on rail, to serve commuters. Metra's creation was a result of the anticipated failure of commuter service operated and owned by various private railroad companies in the 1970s. Freight rail companies still operate some routes; however, these operations are guided by contracted service agreements. Metra owns all rolling stock and is responsible for all stations along with the respective municipalities. Since its inception, Metra has directed more than $5 billion into the commuter rail system of the Chicago metropolitan area.
Early Chicago commuter rail
Since its founding in the 19th century, Chicago has been a major Midwestern hub in the North American rail network. It has more trackage radiating in more directions than any other city in North America. Railroads set up their headquarters in the city and Chicago became a center for building freight cars, passenger cars and diesel locomotives.
By the 1930s Chicago had the world's largest public transportation system, but commuter rail services started to decline. By the mid-1970s, the commuter lines faced an uncertain future. The Burlington Northern, Milwaukee Road, Chicago and North Western and Illinois Central were losing money and were using passenger cars dating as far back as the 1920s.
Formation of the RTA
To provide stability to the commuter rail system, the Illinois General Assembly formed the Regional Transportation Authority in 1974. Its purpose was to fund and plan the Chicago region's public transportation. In the beginning the Regional Transportation Authority commuter train fleet consisted of second-hand equipment, until 1976 when the first order of new EMD F40PH locomotives arrived. That F40PH fleet is still in service today. The companies that had long provided commuter rail in the Chicago area continued to operate their lines under contract to the RTA.
Less than a decade later the Regional Transportation Authority was already suffering from ongoing financial problems. Additionally, two rail providers, the Rock Island Line and the Milwaukee Road, went bankrupt, forcing the RTA to create the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation to operate their lines directly in 1982. In 1983 the Illinois Legislature reorganized the agency. That reorganization left the Regional Transportation Authority in charge of day-to-day operations of all bus, heavy rail and commuter rail services throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. It was also responsible for directing fare and service levels, setting up budgets, finding sources for capital investment and planning. A new Commuter Rail Division was created to handle commuter rail operations; along with CTA and Pace, it was one of RTA's three "service boards."
The board of the RTA Commuter Rail Division first met in 1984. In an effort to simplify the operation of commuter rail in the Chicago area, in July 1985 it adopted a unified brand for the entire system–Metra, or Metropolitan Rail. The newly reorganized Metra service helped to bring a single identity to the many infrastructure components serviced by the Regional Transportation Authority's commuter rail system.
Today, Metra's operating arm, the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, operates seven Metra owned routes. Four other routes continue to be operated by Union Pacific (formerly Chicago & North Western) and BNSF (formerly Burlington Northern) under contract to Metra. Service throughout the network is provided under the Metra name (in keeping with Metra's goal of providing a single identity for all commuter rail in the region). Metra also owns all rolling stock, controls fares and staffing levels, and is responsible for most of the stations. However, the freight carriers who operate routes under contract use their own employees and control the right-of-way for those routes.
Growth and expansion
In the late 20th and early 21st century Metra experienced record ridership and expanded its services. In 1996 Metra organized its first new line, the North Central Service, running from Union Station to Antioch. By 2006 it added new intermediate stops to that same route, extended the Union Pacific / West Line from Geneva to Elburn and extended SouthWest Service from Orland Park to Manhattan. In 2012 it boasted 95.8% average on-time performance (measured only for a train's arrivals at its last station no more than six minutes late). It also posted its fourth highest volume in its history despite decreases in employment opportunities in downtown Chicago.
Metra continued to seek expansion options and to improve passenger service. Over the past three decades, Metra has invested more than $5 billion into its infrastructure. That investment has been used to purchase new rolling stock, build new stations, renovate tracks, modernize signal systems and upgrade support facilities. In addition to core improvements on the Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West routes, planning advanced on two new Metra routes, SouthEast Service and the Suburban Transit Access Route.
Metra also has been marred by allegations and investigations of corruption. In April 2002, board member Don Udstuen resigned from both Metra and his executive job with the Illinois State Medical Society, after admitting to taking bribes to steer Metra contracts to firms associated with former legislator Roger Stanley and pleading guilty to his part in the Illinois Operation Safe Road scandal.
In April 2010 Metra's executive director, Phil Pagano, faced investigation for taking an unauthorized $56,000 bonus and was later found to have improperly received $475,000 in vacation pay. The day that the agency's board was scheduled to discuss his fate, Pagano stepped in front of a moving Metra train in an apparent suicide. Around the time of Pagano's death, allegations also surfaced that a Metra employee demanded a $2,000 payoff from the studio that used Metra in the 2011 film Source Code. That employee was later relieved of his duties, and retired.
In June 2013, Metra CEO Alex Clifford abruptly resigned his position with no public comment. It gradually was reported that his exit had been demanded by the Metra board, which negotiated a $871,000 severance package including a non-disclosure agreement. Clifford's ouster was allegedly arranged because he rejected requests for patronage hiring and promotion, including a request to promote a longtime supporter of State Representative Michael Madigan. In the wake of this scandal, five board members resigned. In August 2013, the remaining board members unanimously elected Don Orseno as interim CEO. (The six-member board was operating with reduced membership and thus lacked the authority to elect a permanent CEO. Orseno and Alex Wiggins shared duties as co-executive directors.) Orseno's long railroad career, beginning with work to set up trains and check doors for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad played favorably in the board's decision. By October 2013, local officials had restored Metra's board to 11 members. After reviewing four candidates, the re-constituted board formally appointed Orseno CEO of Metra in January 2014. In 2014, "a lengthy history of political patronage hiring at" Metra was reported, based on past files.
Metra services passengers through stations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Each station, unless a route or branch terminus, provides travel toward (inbound) and away from (outbound) downtown Chicago. Therefore, a passenger can connect between the city and a suburb or between two points in the suburbs using Metra service. Although Metra's commuter rail system is designed to connect points all over the Chicago metropolitan area, it does provide some intracity connections within Chicago.
In downtown Chicago, Metra trains originate from one of four stations. Six lines originate at Union Station. The three Union Pacific lines originate at Ogilvie Transportation Center. The Rock Island District originates at LaSalle Street Station, and the Metra Electric District originates at Millennium Station. All of these stations are situated within walking distance of the Chicago Loop, so Metra passengers may also transfer to a different Metra line upon their arrival downtown. Metra's urban-centric service remains popular with suburban commuters working downtown, reverse commuters, and those who visit Chicago for recreational activities and tourism.
Stations are found throughout Chicago, as well as in suburban Cook, Dupage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties - an area largely coextensive with the inner ring of the Chicago metropolitan area. One station is located in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Of Metra's 11 routes, four are operated under contract. The BNSF Line service is operated by BNSF Railway. The lines out of the Ogilvie Transportation Center (formerly North Western Station) are operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. Lines not contracted are operated by the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Rail Corporation (NIRC), Metra's operating subsidiary. Inbound trains on every line at all times run through to their Chicago terminus, however, many outbound trains do not run through to their respective lines' terminus (for example, most trains on the Union Pacific/Northwest Line do not run through to Harvard; instead, terminating at Crystal Lake).
█ BNSF Railway Line
The BNSF Railway Line is Metra's busiest route. This 37.1-mile (59.7 km) route runs from Union Station to Aurora, Illinois. It had an average of 64,600 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ Heritage Corridor
Metra’s least patronized line, the Heritage Corridor is a 37.1-mile (59.7 km) route, running from Union Station to Joliet, Illinois during peak hours only. It had an average of 2,600 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ Metra Electric District
The shortest Metra Line, the Metra Electric District is a 31.5-mile (50.7 km) route from Millennium Station to University Park, with branch lines serving Blue Islandand South Chicago. The line had an average of 36,200 passenger weekday trips in 2010.
█ Milwaukee District / North Line:
The Milwaukee District / North Line is a 49.74-mile (80.05 km) route from Union Station to Fox Lake, Illinois. The line had an average of 23,500 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ Milwaukee District / West Line
The Milwaukee District / West Line is a 40.02-mile (64.41 km) route from Union Station to Big Timber Road in Elgin, Illinois; on off-peak hours and weekends, service terminates in downtown Elgin. The line had an average of 22,300 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ North Central Service
The North Central Service is a 52.91-mile (85.15 km) route from Union Station to Antioch, Illinois. It had an average of 5,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ Rock Island District
The Rock Island District is a 46.8-mile (75.3 km) route to southwest and southern suburbs. The line has 26 stations on two branches from LaSalle Street Station to Joliet. It had an average of 30,500 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ SouthWest Service
The SouthWest Service is a 40.8-mile (65.7 km) route from Union Station to Manhattan. It had an average of 9,500 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ Union Pacific / North Line:
The Union Pacific / North Line is a 51.61-mile (83.06 km) route from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with most trains ending in Waukegan. The line had an average of 36,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ Union Pacific / Northwest Line
The longest Metra route, the Union Pacific / Northwest Line is a 63.16-mile (101.65 km) route from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Harvard, Illinois, with most trains ending in Crystal Lake, with a 7.59-mile (12.21 km) branch line from Pingree Road to McHenry. The line had an average of 40,900 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
█ Union Pacific / West Line
The Union Pacific / West Line is a 43.8-mile (70.5 km) route running from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Elburn, Illinois. The line had an average of 29,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
Metra proposed two routes in the early 2000s, SouthEast Service, which would connect some portions of the southern suburbs with downtown Chicago, and the Suburban Transit Access Route, which would connect various suburbs with each other without going into the downtown. Both of these proposals are now defunct.
Transportation in Chicago consists of a public transportation infrastructure allowing for intermodal connections to local, regional, national and international transportation services. Parking lots are available adjacent to most suburban Metra stations for passengers connecting with their train by car. Most parking lots are operated by the municipality they are located in. Fees and fines are also assessed by the local municipality; however, parking is usually free on weekends and most holidays. Mass transit CTA and suburban Pace buses connect with many Metra stations downtown and in the suburbs. Monthly pass holders are offered link-up options with these services. In addition, many intercity bus lines connect with passengers outside of Union Station.
The Chicago "L" also has transfers with Metra at some Chicago stations. Most 'L' lines traverse the Loop allowing nearby access to all downtown Metra terminals. There are also transfer points between Metra and the 'L' outside of the Loop, such as transfers from the Union Pacific/Northwest Line to the Blue Line at Irving Park and Jefferson Park Transit Center; and from the Union Pacific / West Line to the Green Line at Oak Park. 'L' trains announce downtown Metra connections on board when announcing the next 'L' stop. Amtrak trains depart alongside Metra trains at Union Station. In addition to Illinois Serviceand Hiawatha Service, Amtrak trains run nationwide including service to states spanning both coastlines. Passengers connecting from Ogilvie Transportation Center can access Union Station through its north platforms on the opposite side of Madison Street. A number of suburban Metra stations are also shared with Amtrak as well.
Positive train control
In regards to the PTC mandate that passed Congress, Metra took steps to meet the deadline. Metra concluded that the December 31, 2015 mandate to have PTC running was an unreasonable requirement. This aligns with the stance taken by much of the railroad industry. This is due to a variety factors including but not limited to: delays from the government and the fundamental complexity of building a program from the ground up. Moreover, Metra estimates the cost of implementing the system on their 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of track in the Chicago region to be over $200 million. The fear is this unfunded mandate will divert scarce capital funds from other essential needs. This includes building and maintaining existing tracks, stations, signals, and other equipment that ensures a safe operating environment for all of Metra’s passengers. However, Metra recognizes the need for PTC but just would like a more reasonable timeline to implement such a program. This recognition is partially based on Metra’s previous accident history. Two noteworthy events were a pair of accidents on the Rock Island District within a span of a couple of years. The first event was a derailment that occurred on October 12, 2003 when a train flew through a 10 mph crossing at 68 mph. A second very similar occurrence happened on September 17, 2005 but was more serious. This derailment killed 2 passengers and injured 117. Both of these incidents could have been prevented if PTC were in place. In both circumstances PTC would have overridden the engineer and slowed the train down to the appropriate speed to prevent an accident from occurring.
Recently, Metra has taken significant steps in the process to fully implementing PTC. On April 22, 2015 the Metra board approved an $80 million contract to Parsons Transportation Group. Parson’s was the sole bidder and speaks to the complexities of the project. They will be in charge of incorporating various devices from GPS, radio, to trackside antennas into one cohesive system. The group has some experience in this sector previously as Parsons worked with the southern California commuter rail agency Metrolink to install their system.
Fare system and ticketing
Fare is determined by the distance travelled by a passenger. Each station along every route has been placed in a specific zone based on its distance from its respective downtown station. Downtown terminal and downtown stations are classified as zone 'A' and each additional zone generally represents an added 5 miles (8.0 km) from the downtown terminus. Multiple stations can be placed in the same zone even though they are on the same line. Fare zones include A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, and M. There are no stations in zone L.
Several ticketing options exist for passengers. Riders may choose to purchase one-way tickets, ten-ride tickets, weekend passes or monthly passes.
A one-way ticket is used for one-way travel between two stations. For roundtrip travel, two one-way tickets can be purchased. One-way tickets can be purchased from ticket agents or on the train from a conductor. Conductors will charge an extra $5 if a ticket agent was available at the passenger's departing station.
A ten-ride provides ten rides between two zones determined at the time of purchase. Ten-rides can be shared between passengers and expire after one year from the date of purchase. Ten-rides can be purchased from ticket agents, by mail or online from Metra's website.
A weekend pass provides unlimited travel between any and all zones for one passenger on a Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes weekend passes are extended to include holidays adjacent to the weekend. Weekend passes can always be purchased from conductors without a surcharge and from ticket agents. As of 2018, weekend passes cost $10.
A monthly pass provides unlimited travel between any two zones for one passenger on every day of a respective month. Monthly passes can be used on any line within the specified zones. Monthly passes can be purchased from ticket agents, by mail or online from Metra's website. Monthly pass holders may also purchase a Pace PlusBus card in conjunction with their monthly pass purchase. The PlusBus card provides unlimited rides on all Pace suburban buses. A CTA/Pace Link-Up pass is also available for purchase. On CTA buses and the CTA 'L' the Link-Up pass allows unlimited travel during weekday rush hours and on Pace buses it allows unlimited travel anytime. Monthly pass holders may also travel beyond the zones listed on the monthly pass by purchasing incremental tickets from conductors on the train. Incremental tickets cost $1 beyond the first zone and 50 cents for every additional zone thereafter. There is no surcharge to purchase incremental tickets for monthly pass holders.
Reduced fare programs
Metra allows some travellers to purchase reduced fare tickets or even ride for free. These reduced fare and free ride programs are administered by Metra and the RTA. Some pre-college students, youth, senior citizens, members of the United States Armed Forces and persons with disabilities may qualify for these programs. Time-based and geographical restrictions apply to these programs and passengers must ensure they qualify before attempting to purchase special tickets or ride for free.
Safety and security
Metra employees, the Metra Police Department and other public safety agencies are responsible for maintaining safety and security on its lines, aboard its trains and at stations all to various degrees. Although rail transport is one of the safest forms of land travel, compromises to Metra's safety and security can occur through pedestrian accidents, suicide attempts, vehicle collisions, derailment, terrorism and other incidents. Failing to maintain safety and security can result in equipment and infrastructure damage, extensive service disruptions, traumatic injuries and loss of life. Therefore, Metra and other agencies consider safety a top priority and dedicate a significant amount of resources to combat these dangers.
Starting in early summer of 2013 Metra has announced plans to up police patrols on to the seven lines the agency operates: the Milwaukee Districts North and West, the North Central Service, the Heritage Corridor, South West Service, Rock Island and Electric District. The police patrols will not be on the BNSF and Union Pacific train lines because those line are operated by the railroads that own them and security falls to those companies. When asked why there were increasing patrols spokesman Michael Gillis said, "There is no particular reason, other than the fact that we want to be more proactive and more deliberately visible to our riders,"
The Metra Police Department is a special law enforcement agency charged with providing police services to passengers, employees, equipment and property. The department has more than 100 police officersand is responsible for the safety of all routes and stations. In an effort to help coordinate emergency preparedness and incident management, all Metra police officers are certified in the National Incident Management System. In addition, Metra police works with the Chicago Police Department as a member of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy. To date, only one Metra police officer has been killed in the line of duty.
The focus on rail safety by Metra comes from many fronts beyond operations including emergency preparedness and public awareness. The setup of railway platforms, use of grade crossing signals and horn blasts make up a critical system used to communicate movements of commuter trains to pedestrians and vehicles. Outside of these operational components, Metra aggressively pursues safety through public awareness. Metra utilizes its own Operation Lifesaver program and uses it to help spread safety messages. Metra also holds events promoting rail safety at schools and organizes a safety poster contest awarding winners with prizes and features their poster on monthly passes and at stations.
Metra has been honored with several E. H. Harriman Awards for employee safety, most recently with a Bronze award in class B (line-haul railroads with between 4 and 15 million employee hours per year) for 2005. Previous Harriman Awards conferred to Metra include Gold awards for 2003 and 2004 and a Silver award for 2002.
Metra expects to implement positive train control on its entire system in 2019, four years after the federally mandated 2015 deadline.
There were 156 non-employee fatalities involving Metra equipment and Metra owned track between 2001 and 2010. On average 15 people were killed annually based on data from that decade. The highest number of fatalities in a year throughout that time occurred in 2002, with 23 deaths and in 2010, with 21 deaths. The majority of these fatalities occurred at grade crossings and on railway involving an impact with a train; only four deaths involved passengers aboard the train.
The worst passenger rail disaster in Illinois occurred prior to the formation of Regional Transportation Authority. The 1972 Chicago commuter rail crash consisted of a two train collision on track now used for the Metra Electric District. Sadly, the collision resulted in 45 deaths and 332 injuries. Two decades later, Metra experienced its first rail disaster, the 1995 Fox River Grove bus–train collision. This accident involved a collision of a Metra train and a school bus at a grade crossing sadly resulting in 21 injuries and the deaths of seven high school students. In 2003, another incident involved a train derailing while switching from one track to another, unfortunately injuring 45 passengers. In 2005, a train carrying 200 passengers along the same stretch of track derailed and then collided with a steel bridge, sadly resulting in two deaths and 117 injured. The cause of both accidents was ruled to be human error; the trains were going at speeds in excess of 68 miles per hour (109 km/h) when they should have been going 10 miles per hour (16 km/h).
In addition to the loss of life, injuries, damage and service disruptions caused by accidents, Metra and other transportation agencies have been involved in multimillion-dollar lawsuits and settlements stemming from safety failures. These failures have also resulted in updated safety policies and adjustments of equipment and warning devices.
All of Metra's locomotives are diesel-electric locomotives. The bulk of its locomotive fleet consists of F40PH locomotives. The Electric District uses electric multiple units.
Numbers: 100–149, 174-184, 215-217
Numbers: 150–173, 174-184
Numbers: 185- 187, 189– 191, 193, 195-199,201–203,206-214
Numbers: 188, 192, 194, 200
Numbers: 611, 614
Numbers: 305, 308
Numbers: 507-510, 512-522
Numbers: 600–610, 612, 613
In February 2018, Metra announced that it had purchased 21 EMD F59PHIs from Amtrak; the locomotives had been used in Pacific Surfliner service and were to be replaced by Siemens Chargers.
Numbers: 740–820, 7100-7121
Privately owned club coaches
Metra electric fleet
Metra's electric units are also known as Highliners.
Owner: Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)
Locale: Chicago Metropolitan Area
Transit type: Commuter rail
Number of lines: 11
Number of stations: 242
Daily ridership: 292,000 (weekday, FY2013); 109,700 (weekend, FY2013)
Chief executive: James M. Derwinski
Began operation: 1984
Operators: Metra, Union Pacific, BNSF
Reporting marks: METX
System length: 487.7 mi (784.9 km)
Track gauge: 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Entrance to a Metra bilevel rail car.
By Lucius Kwok - originally posted to Flickr as Metra bilevel entrance, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4422624
Metra System Map. Click image for larger view.
By User:S3raph,User:RedWordSmith,User:A435(m) - Wikipedia in english, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7816218
Metra F40PHM-2 locomotive No. 206.
By Joe Ravi, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10584829
Metra F40PH-2 locomotive No. 181 coupled with MP36PH-3S locomotive No. 410.
By Joe Ravi, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10586378
Metra Electric Highliners at 59th Street station.
By Peter Van den Bossche - originally posted to Flickr as Metra Electric train, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4422621
RTA EMD F40PH No. 123 crossing the Fox River in Elgin, Illinois in 1981.
By Bruce Fingerhood from Springfield, Oregon, US - elginUploaded by Mackensen, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31186660
Metra F40PH locomotives at the Waukegan Station.
By Brian Moore - originally posted to Flickr as Waukeegan Trains, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4422613
Metra train number 2707 on the Milwaukee District West route departs Chicago from Union Station using engine number 418, an MP36PH-3 locomotive.
By Douglas Rahden, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15352667
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