A Metra locomotive pulls out of Union Station in Chicago.
|Owner||Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)|
|Locale||Chicago Metropolitan Area, United States|
|Transit type||Commuter rail|
|Number of lines||11|
|Number of stations||241|
|Daily ridership||301,200 (weekday)
|Chief executive||Alexander D. Clifford|
Union Pacific, BNSF
|Reporting marks||METX, METZ, NIRC|
|System length||487.7 miles (784.9 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
Metra is the commuter rail division of the Illinois Regional Transportation Authority. The system serves Chicago and its metropolitan area through 241 stations on 11 different rail lines. Throughout the 21st century, Metra has been the second busiest commuter rail system in the United States by average weekday passenger trips. Experiencing an average growth of 1.6% in ridership per year, Metra trains offered 82.7 million passenger rides in 2011.
Utilizing Chicago's rich rail infrastructure founded in the 19th century, the Illinois General Assembly established the RTA, and later Metra, to serve commuters by railroad. 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 the 19th century Chicago has been the hub of 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 railroads were using passenger cars from 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.
Less than a decade later the Regional Transportation Authority was already suffering from ongoing financial problems. 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.
Metra branding 
Due to the broad range of responsibilities entrusted with the Regional Transportation Authority, the Commuter Rail Service Board introduced the Metra brand in 1984. 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. Metra's operating arm, the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, was created as a separate rail subsidiary which operates seven Metra owned routes. Contracts were set up with the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads to operate four other Metra routes. While Metra owns all rolling stock and is responsible for most stations on those routes, the freight carriers use their own employees and control the right-of-way for those routes. In keeping with Metra's purpose to provide a single identity for commuter rail in Chicagoland, the freight operators provide service under the Metra name.
Growth, corruption 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, North Central Service. 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 2010 it boasted 95.9% average on time performance. It also posted its fourth highest volume in its history despite decreases in employment opportunities in downtown Chicago.
While there was success related to ridership increases and service expansion, Metra has been marred by corruption allegations and investigations. In April 2010 Metra's executive director, Phil Pagano, was being investigated for taking an unauthorized $56,000 bonus and was later found to have improperly received $475,000 in vacation pay. Pagano stepped in front of a moving Metra train on May 7, 2010 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.
Despite these setbacks Metra continues 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 progresses on two new Metra routes, SouthEast Service and the Suburban Transit Access Route.
Metra services passengers through stations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Each station, unless a route or branch terminus, provides travel towards (inbound) and away (outbound) from 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.
Chicago's four downtown stations servicing Metra trains are Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, LaSalle Street Station and Millennium Station. All of these stations are situated inside or within a block 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.
Of Metra's 11 routes, four are operated under contract. The BNSF Line service is operated by BNSF Railway. The Union Pacific/North, Union Pacific/Northwest and Union Pacific/West lines 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.
- The BNSF Railway Line is Metra's busiest route. The 37.5 mile (60 km) route to the western suburbs had an average of 64,600 weekday passenger trips in 2010; it has 26 stations from Union Station to Aurora.
- The Hollywood station is within walking distance of Chicago's Brookfield Zoo.
- The Heritage Corridor is a 37.2 mile (60 km) route to the southwest suburbs with six stations from Union Station to Joliet. It had an average of 2,600 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
- The Metra Electric District is a 40.6 mile (65 km) route to the south suburbs. The line has 49 stations, with two branches, from Millennium Station downtown to University Park, Blue Island and South Chicago at the ends of its branches. The line had an average of 36,200 passenger weekday trips in 2010.
- A number of major Chicago attractions are serviced by the Metra Electric District. Chicago's Museum Campus, including the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum of Natural History, Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, and Soldier Field are all within walking distance of the Museum Campus/11th Street station. Metra Electric District trains also provide direct service to McCormick Place at the McCormick Place station which is directly below the convention center. The 55th-56th-57th Street station is within walking distance of the University of Chicago, the Robie House, the Oriental Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the DuSable Museum of African American History.
- Milwaukee District North is a 49.5 mile (80 km) route to northern suburbs. The line has 22 stations from Union Station to Fox Lake. The line had an average of 23,500 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
- Milwaukee District West is a 39.8 mile (64 km) route to western suburbs. The line has 22 stations from Union Station to Big Timber Road; during off-peak hours service terminates at Elgin. The line had an average of 22,300 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
- North Central Service is a 52.8 mile (85 km) route to northern and northwest suburbs on weekdays only. The line has 18 stations from Union Station to Antioch. It had an average of 5,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
- North Central's O'Hare Transfer station connects to O'Hare International Airport and is walking distance from the Allstate Arena.
- The Rock Island District is a 46.8 mile (75 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.
- Rock Island's 35th Street station provides service to the Illinois Institute of Technology and U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.
- SouthWest Service is a 40.8 mile (66 km) route to southwest suburbs. The line has 13 stations from Union Station to Manhattan. It had an average of 9,500 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
- Union Pacific North is a 51.6 mile (83 km) route to the northern suburbs. The line has 27 stations from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Kenosha Metra station. The line had an average of 36,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
- The line serves Northwestern University via the Evanston Davis Street station, Ravinia Festival via the Ravinia Park station, and the Chicago Botanic Garden via the Braeside station.
- The longest Metra route, Union Pacific Northwest is a 70.5 mile (113 km) route to the northwest suburbs. The line has 23 stations from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Harvard and McHenry. The line had an average of 40,900 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
- The line serves Arlington Park through the Arlington Park station.
- Union Pacific West is a 43.6 mile (70 km) route to the western suburbs. The line has 19 stations from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Elburn. The line had an average of 29,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.
Intermodal connections 
Transportation in Chicago consists of a rich 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.
Chicago 'L' subway and elevated trains also connect with Metra trains at some Chicago stations. Most 'L' lines traverse the Loop allowing nearby access to all downtown Metra terminals. Some stations, such as the Jefferson Park Transit Center, provide transfer points to Chicago 'L' stations outside of the Loop. 'L' trains announce downtown Metra connections on board when announcing the next 'L' stop. Amtrak intercity trains depart alongside Metra trains at Union Station. In addition to Illinois Service and Hiawatha Service to Milwaukee, 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.
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 termini 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.
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 $3 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 2011, weekend passes cost $7.
- 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 bus sticker in conjunction with their monthly pass purchase. The sticker provides unlimited rides on all Pace suburban busses. A CTA link-up option is also available for purchase. It provides unlimited connecting travel on Pace busses, CTA busses and the CTA 'L' between certain rush hours. 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.
Law enforcement 
The Metra Police Department is a special law enforcement agency charged with providing security to passengers, employees, equipment, and property. The department has more than 100 police officers and 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, the Metra police work with the Chicago Police Department as a member of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy. Only one Metra police officer has been killed in the line of duty.
Rail safety 
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.
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. The collision resulted in 45 deaths and 332 injuries. Several 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 resulting in 21 injuries and the deaths of seven high school students.
In addition to the loss of life, injuries, damage, and service disruptions caused by accidents, Metra and other transportation agencies have been involved in multi-million dollar lawsuits and settlements stemming from safety failures. These failures have also resulted in updated safety policies and adjustments of equipment and warning devices.
Rolling stock 
Locomotive fleet 
|100–127||F40PH-3||1976–1977||All diesel routes||Operating, rebuilt to phase 3 status between 2008-2011|
|128–184||F40PH-2||1979–1989||All diesel routes, many of which are assigned to the UP lines||Operating, being rebuilt to F40PH-3's as of 1/11|
|185–214||F40PHM-2||1991–1992||All Diesel Routes Except Union Pacific Lines.||Operating|
|215-216||F40PH-3||1977–1981||All Diesel Routes||Operating,
Sold to Metra in 2009 by the Tennessee Central Railway Museum, and refurbished by Progress Rail before coming to Chicago. METX 215: Ex-Amtrak 258, METX 216: Ex-Amtrak 375
|401–427||MP36PH-3S||2003–2004||BNSF, RI, Milwaukee North, Milwaukee West and North Central Service||Operating|
|305, 308||F7||1949||All Diesel Routes||Retired, donated to Illinois Railway Museum|
|514–516, 518, 521||E8||1951–1953||All Diesel Routes||Retired|
|600–614||F40C||1974||611 & 614 Milwaukee Districts||600-610, & 612-613 Retired, 611 & 614 Operating,
611 and 614 were brought back into service, first in 2004 when the MP36PH-3S had software and computer problems when first delivered to Metra, and again in 2008 while F40s were sent to Progress Rail for overhaul.
|3||SW1200||Milwaukee West, Milwaukee North||Operating|
|4–8||SW1500||RI, Milwaukee West, Milwaukee North, ME||Operating|
Coach fleet 
|7700–7866||Coach||Chicago and North Western||1960–1970||Pullman||Operating|
|553||Club Car||Chicago and North Western||1949||ACF||Operating|
|555||Club Car||Chicago and North Western||1949||ACF||Retired|
|7600–7613||Coach||Chicago and North Western||1955||St. Louis||Retired|
|7650–7681||Coach||Chicago and North Western||1956||Pullman||Retired|
|7867–7871||Coach||Rock Island||1970||St. Louis||Retired|
|7880||Coach (Former Parlor)||Chicago and North Western||1958||Pullman||Retired|
|7900–7901||Club Car||Chicago and North Western||1955||St. Louis||Retired|
|8700–8763||Coach/Cab||Chicago and North Western||1960–1968||Pullman||Retired|
Privately Owned Club Coaches 
|553||Private railroad car||Chicago and North Western||1949||ACF||Operating|
|555||Private railroad car||Chicago and North Western||1949||ACF||Retired|
Metra electric fleet 
|N/A||MU Coach||Metra||Deliveries begin in 2012||Sumitomo Group|
|1201–1226||MU Coach||Metra||2005||Nippon Sharyo|
|1501–1630||MU Coach||Illinois Central||1971–1972||St. Louis|
|1631–1666||MU Coach||Illinois Central||1978–1979||Bombardier|
See also 
- Mass transit in Chicago
- Chicago 'L'
- Chicago Transit Authority
- Pace (transit)
- South Shore Line (NICTD)
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Metra. December 22, 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
- "Where do Metra trains run". Metra website. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- "Metra names new Chief Executive Officer". Metra. April 4, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- American Public Transportation Association (2010). Commuter Rail. Ridership Report, Fourth Quarter 2010 (Report). http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2010_q4_ridership_APTA.pdf. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- "Metra Ridership Reports – Annual Ridership". Metra Annual Report. Metra. March 10, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
- "Railroads". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. January 23, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- "Chicago Commuter Rail Collection". Special Collection Finding Aids. University of Illinois at Chicago. August 17, 2006. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- Vandervoort, Bill (October 12, 2010). "Metra History". Metra Railfanning. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- "Metra History". About Metra. Metra. April 19, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- Wronski, Richard; Metz, Nina (April 14, 2011). "Metra probe of alleged shakedown got lost in 'chaos' following agency pay scandal". Chicago Tribune (Chicago). Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- "Metra Connects". Metra. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- "Metra System Map". Maps and schedules. Metra. April 3, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
- Ranney, George (February 6, 2004). "Testimony to the Regional Transportation Task Force". Regional Transportation Task Force. Chicago. Retrieved May 14, 2011. More than one of
- "Parking Map". Riding Metra. Metra. February 23, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- "Tickets". Metra. April 27, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- "Transportation". Travel Tools. City of Chicago. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- Garfield, Graham. "Jefferson Park". Northern Illinois History. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- "Chicago Union Station". Metra. February 23, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- "Chicago, IL - Union Station (CHI)". Amtrak. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (2010). National Transportation Statistics. Table 2-1: Transportation Fatalities by Mode (Report). http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_02_01.html. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
- "School Safety". Rail Safety & Security. Metra. May 14, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- "Security". Rail Safety & Security. Metra. February 23, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- "Emergency Preparedness/Public Awareness". Rail Safety & Security. Metra. February 24, 2011. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
- Officer Down Memorial Page: Thomas Alan Cook
- Association of American Railroads (reprinted by Norfolk Southern Railway) (May 16, 2006). "Railroads Set Another Employee Safety Record in 2005". Archived from the original on February 13, 2007. Retrieved May 24, 2006.
- "FRA Office of Safety Analysis Web Site". Casualties By State, Railroad or Type. Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Safety Analysis. May 20, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
- "1972, October 30: Illinois Central Commuter Train Crash". Chicago Public Library. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
- HIGHWAY/RAILROAD ACCIDENT REPORT (Report). National Transportation Safety Board. 1996. PB96-916202. http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/1996/har9602.pdf. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
- "Clifford Settles Violinist Lawsuit Against METRA for $35 Million". March 11, 2002. Retrieved February 11, 2010.
- Uphues, Bob (September 28, 2005). "Suit filed against railroads in cyclist's death: Metra, BNFS negligence cited as the cause". Riverside Brookfield Landmark. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
- Doing Business with Metra
- Wronski, Richard (August 13, 2010). "Metra to buy 1st new cars for Electric Line in 5 years". Chicago Breaking News Center. Retrieved 2 February 2011.[dead link]
Further reading 
- "Leaders Agree to Push for Metra". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Online, 22 December 2004. Archived from the original on 2005-01-07. Retrieved 2005-01-20.
- "Village board seeks Metra extension". McHenry Online. Retrieved 2005-01-20.
- "Metra: Driven by its history, A modern Chicago railroad carries its past with it". Trains Magazine, July 2003, by J. David Ingles. Retrieved 2006-09-24.
- "The CTA's "Doomsday Budget"-and what it means to Metra riders". On the Bi-Level, May 2005 Special Edition. Archived from the original on 2005-05-27. Retrieved 2005-06-08.
- J. David Ingles, Metra: "Best Commuter Train", Trains July 1993
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Metra|
- Metra Official website
- Metra Connects Metra's official planned service site
- Regional Transportation Authority Official website of Metra's parent agency