Metra Electric District

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Metra Electric District
Departing Metra Electric District Train at Ivanhoe.jpg
LocaleChicago, Illinois, United States
TerminiMillennium Station
University Park, South Chicago (93rd Street), Blue Island
Stations49 (1 closed)
TypeCommuter rail
Operator(s)Metra (Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Rail Corporation)
Daily ridership34,000 (Avg. Weekday 2014)[1]
Line length31 mi (50 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead catenary, 1500 V DC
Route map

Millennium Station Chicago Transit Authority Logo.svg South Shore Line
0.80 mi
1.29 km
Van Buren Street South Shore Line
1.43 mi
2.3 km
Museum Campus/11th Street South Shore Line
to Union Station via St. Charles Air Line
2.22 mi
3.57 km
18th Street
2.68 mi
4.31 km
McCormick Place South Shore Line
3.20 mi
5.15 km
27th Street
31st Street
35th Street
39th Street
43rd Street
5.90 mi
9.5 km
47th Street (Kenwood)
50th Street
6.54 mi
10.53 km
51st–53rd Street (Hyde Park)
6.99 mi
11.25 km
55th–56th–57th Street South Shore Line
7.43 mi
11.96 km
59th Street/University of Chicago
8.33 mi
13.41 km
63rd Street South Shore Line
67th Street
South Chicago branch
East 71st Street
9.10 mi
14.65 km
Stony Island
9.66 mi
15.55 km
Bryn Mawr
South Exchange Avenue
10.28 mi
16.54 km
South Shore
10.88 mi
17.51 km
Windsor Park
11.49 mi
18.49 km
11.97 mi
19.26 km
83rd Street
12.51 mi
20.13 km
87th Street
13.04 mi
20.99 km
South Chicago (93rd Street)
70th Street
72nd Street
9.32 mi
15 km
75th Street (Grand Crossing)
to Union Station
to Valparaiso
9.99 mi
16.08 km
79th Street (Chatham)
10.38 mi
16.7 km
83rd Street (Avalon Park)
10.86 mi
17.48 km
87th Street (Woodruff)
11.37 mi
18.3 km
91st Street (Chesterfield)
12.04 mi
19.38 km
95th Street (CSU)
13.06 mi
21.02 km
103rd Street (Rosemoor)
13.54 mi
21.79 km
107th Street
13.95 mi
22.45 km
111th Street (Pullman)
South Shore Line
South Shore Line
to South Bend Airport
14.49 mi
23.32 km
Kensington/115th Street
Blue Island branch
15.60 mi
25.11 km
State Street
16.06 mi
25.85 km
Stewart Ridge
16.68 mi
26.84 km
West Pullman
17.04 mi
27.42 km
Racine Avenue
17.87 mi
28.76 km
Ashland Avenue
18.36 mi
29.55 km
Burr Oak
RI to LaSalle Street
18.91 mi
30.43 km
Blue Island
RI to Joliet
130th Street
17.33 mi
27.89 km
18.18 mi
29.26 km
18.98 mi
30.55 km
147th Street (Sibley Boulevard)
20.00 mi
32.19 km
22.27 mi
35.84 km
Hazel Crest
22.82 mi
36.73 km
23.51 mi
37.84 km
Homewood Amtrak
24.93 mi
40.12 km
26.56 mi
42.74 km
Olympia Fields
27.62 mi
44.45 km
211th Street (Lincoln Highway)
28.24 mi
45.45 km
29.33 mi
47.2 km
Richton Park
31.50 mi
50.69 km
University Park
to Carbondale and New Orleans

The Metra Electric District is an electrified commuter rail line owned and operated by Metra which connects Millennium Station (formerly Randolph Street Station), in downtown Chicago, with the city's southern suburbs. As of 2018, it is the fifth busiest of Metra's 11 lines, after the BNSF, UP-NW, UP-N, and UP-W with nearly 7.7 million annual riders.[2] While Metra does not explicitly refer to any of its lines by color, the timetable accents for the Metra Electric District are printed in bright "Panama orange" to reflect the line's origins with the Illinois Central Railroad (IC) and its Panama Limited passenger train.[3] Apart from the spots where its tracks run parallel to other main lines, it is the only Metra line running entirely on dedicated passenger tracks, with no freight trains operating anywhere on the actual route itself (only exceptions perhaps being occasional work or repair trains). The line is the only one in the Metra system with more than one station in Downtown Chicago, and also has the highest number of stations (49) of any Metra line.

It is the only Metra line powered by overhead catenary, and the only one with three branches. Trains operate on 1500 volts direct current, and all stations have high-level platforms. Its main line north of Kensington is shared by NICTD's South Shore Line, an electric interurban line through northern Indiana to South Bend. Per a longstanding non-compete agreement, South Shore trains stopping at stations shared with the Electric District only stop to pick up passengers eastbound and discharge them westbound.

It is the only Metra line with significant off-peak and Saturday service. In total, 76 trains depart Millennium Station according to the Monday-Friday public timetable. Of these, 40 run on the main line with 26 reaching University Park, 5 terminating at Flossmoor, and 4 terminating at Harvey. The stretch of the line from Millennium Station to 55th-56th-57th Street is the most heavily traveled section on the entire Metra system. Suburban operations along the line are the most frequent in the entire Metra system. The Metra Electric District also has the best on-time performance of all Metra lines, averaging only one late train a month in 2014.[4]


Steam era[edit]

The line was built by the Illinois Central Railroad, one of the first commuter services outside the major metropolitan areas of the northeastern United States. It opened on July 21, 1856 between the IC's then-downtown station, Great Central Station, (now Millennium Station) and Hyde Park. Part of the line was elevated for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Jackson Park.

The line predates the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, and ran on a trestle just offshore in Lake Michigan. After the fire, remains of buildings destroyed by the fire were dumped into the lake, creating landfill that forms the foundation of Grant Park, which the Metra Electric District runs through.

Two branches were added: from Brookdale southeast to South Chicago in the early 1880s, and from Kensington southwest to Blue Island in the early 1890s, both later electrified along with the main line.

When the IC moved its intercity operations to Central Station in 1893, it built Randolph Street Terminal on the former site of Great Central to handle its growing commuter operations.

Electrical IC era[edit]

An Illinois Central train at Richton Park in 1968.

By the early 20th century the IC operated up to 300 steam trains each day. In 1919, the IC and the Chicago city government collaborated to build a berm from the far south suburb of Homewood into the city. They also dug a trench from the near south side into the city proper, eliminating all grade crossings on the main line except one just south of the Richton Park station. The University Park extension required the line to cross a very long private driveway. The South Chicago branch runs at grade, crossing many city streets.

The grade crossing elimination project was followed by electrification. The IC electrified the commuter tracks in 1926, from downtown to Matteson. In addition to the removal of all grade crossings, the tracks were separated from, and moved to the west side of, the two freight and inter-city tracks. At McCormick Place just south of downtown Chicago, the two non-electrified tracks to Central Station crossed over the new electric alignment. The electric tracks continued north to Randolph Street Terminal.

The "IC Electric" was once Chicago's busiest suburban railroad, and carried a great deal of traffic within the city as well as to suburban communities. The three lines carried 26 million passengers in 1927, the first full year of electrified operation. Ridership rose to 35 million in 1929, and reached an all-time peak of 47 million in 1946.

Service was extended 1.1 miles (1.8 km) southward from Matteson to Richton Park, a new station at the south end of the coach storage yard, in 1946.[5]

The main line had six tracks between Roosevelt Road (Central Station) and 53rd Street (reduced to four in 1962), four to 111th Street, then two. The South Chicago branch has two tracks and the Blue Island branch has a single track.

1972 collision[edit]

The Illinois Central Gulf commuter rail crash, the worst rail accident in Chicago history, occurred on October 30, 1972. A commuter train made up of new lightweight bi-level Highliner cars, inbound to Randolph Street Station during the morning rush hour, overshot the 27th Street platform and backed up into the station. The bi-level train had already tripped the signals to green for the next train, an older, heavy steel single-level express train. As the bi-level train was backing up at 11 miles per hour (18 km/h), it was struck by the single-level train at full speed. The single-level train telescoped the bi-level train, killing 45 passengers and injuring hundreds more, primarily in the bi-level train. A major contributing factor was that Illinois Central Gulf used a dark gray color scheme on the front ends of the Highliner fleet, which was very difficult to see on the cloudy morning of the accident. After the accident the ends of all of the ICG 1926 heavyweight still in use and Highliner MU fleet were partially painted with bright orange added for additional visibility.

RTA era[edit]

Monroe Street, to the south of which (lower left) the Metra tracks emerge from the tunnel into Millennium Station.

In 1976 the Regional Transportation Authority signed a contract with Illinois Central Gulf to fund its commuter service. The next year an extension of 2.3 miles (3.7 km) was built to the current terminal at University Park (originally named Park Forest South). On May 1, 1987 Metra bought the line and its branches for $28 million ($63 million adjusted for inflation). The line is now operated by Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Rail Corporation, Metra's operating subsidiary. Two inter-city freight tracks retained by the ICG are now part of the Canadian National Railway, used by Amtrak's City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki trains.

From 1988 onward, Randolph Street Terminal was under near-perpetual construction. The construction of Millennium Park moved the station completely underground, and in 2005 it was renamed Millennium Station.

The Metra Electric is the only line on the Metra system in which all stations (except 18th and 47th Streets, both flag stops) have ticket vending machines. The machines originally sold magnetically encoded tickets which unlocked the turnstiles. People with paper tickets or weekend passes, on reduced fares or who had trouble with the vending machines had to use a blue or orange pal phone to contact an operator who would unlock the turnstiles. Complaints from passengers who missed their trains caused Metra to remove the turnstiles in November 2003.

The main line and South Chicago branch run daily, but the Blue Island Branch does not operate on Sundays or holidays. A unique feature of the Metra Electric schedule is the similarity of the weekday and Saturday timetables. Many express trains run throughout the day in both directions. On other Metra lines, express service operates exclusively during the morning and afternoon rush hours. It is the only Metra line where all trackage is used exclusively for commuter service. Freight trains and Amtrak trains run on a pair of adjacent tracks owned by the Canadian National Railroad.

Off-peak and Saturday service is frequent, while Sunday service operates hourly north of 63rd Street and every 2 hours south of 63rd.

On January 4, 2021, fares on the Metra Electric line, along with the Rock Island line, were cut in half for all passengers.[6][7]

Potential expansion or service alterations[edit]

The proposed Gold Line, derived from the earlier and more extensive Gray Line plan[8] would have the Electric District operate more like a rapid transit line, by running trains more frequently (every ten minutes between 6am and midnight) with reduced-fare transfers to CTA buses and trains. Unlike the current service, which bypasses many stations to reach suburban stations more quickly, it would make all stops within the city. It would run from Millennium Station to South Chicago (93rd Street) at an estimated cost at $160 million.[9] Since the Gold Line was proposed, the idea of providing rapid transit service along Chicago's south lakefront has gained considerable support from neighborhoods along its route. Despite its popular support, officials from CTA and Metra have largely dismissed the plan, focussing on other expansion projects. In response to this and other concerns, in 2009 the RTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation authorized $450,000 for a "South Lakefront Study" that is anticipated to yield either one or two new transit projects that are eligible for Federal transit funding.[10]

An extension to Peotone, Illinois has been considered since the SouthWest Service was extended to Manhattan.[11][12]

On May 24, 2017, Metra announced new schedule proposals for the line. The new schedule will provide rapid service for the Hyde Park stations every 20 minutes on weekdays until 7 p.m. and every half-hour on Saturdays. The proposed schedule also calls for boosting service on the main line from 63rd Street to Kensington, from every two hours to every hour. However, the proposed schedule also calls for the elimination of lightly used Blue Island trains, including all Saturday service.[13]

After reviewing community feedback, Metra decided to keep four Saturday Blue Island trains and one late night trip to South Chicago. The new service went into effect September 11, 2017.[14]


Since 2014, annual ridership has declined from 9,415,916 to 7,282,993, an overall decline of 22.7%.[15][16]


Rolling stock[edit]

Metra Electric District lines are in Panama Orange, South Shore in Dark Burgundy

The Metra Electric District uses second-generation bi-level Highliner multiple unit cars built by Nippon Sharyo. These will be supplemented by additional EMU's built at Nippon Sharyo's new Rochelle, IL facility opened in 2012.[17] In 2005, these began to replace the original Highliner fleet built by St. Louis Car Company and Bombardier in the 1970s.

On February 12, 2016 the original Highliners left on their last run in revenue service. Metra confirmed in a Facebook post that twenty-four cars are being sent to museums around the Midwestern United States, including the Illinois Railway Museum, while an unconfirmed source stated that some cars were sent to Mendota, Illinois to be scrapped.[18]

Numbers Type Year built Builder Status
1227-1387 Highliner II 2012–Present Nippon Sharyo In Service
1201-1226 Highliner II 2005 Nippon Sharyo In Service
1501-1630 Highliner 1971-1972 St. Louis Retired
1631-1666 Highliner 1978-1979 Bombardier Retired
1100-1229 EMU coach 1926 Pullman Retired
1230-1239 EMU coach 1928 Pullman Retired
1301-1320 EMU trailer 1921 Pullman Retired
1321-1345 EMU trailer 1924 Pullman Retired
1346-1430 EMU trailer 1926 Standard Steel Retired
1431-1440 EMU Trailer 1928 Pullman Retired


Main branch[edit]

Zone Location Station Connections and notes
A Chicago Millennium Station Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District: South Shore Line
Chicago "L": Red Line (at Lake via Chicago Pedway), Green, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple lines (at Washington/Wabash)
CTA Bus: 3, 4, 6, 19, 20, 26, 60, N66, 124, 143, 147, 148, 151, 157
Pace: 855
ChicaGo Dash
Van Buren Street Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District: South Shore Line
CTA Bus: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, J14, 26, 126, 130, 147, 148, 151
Museum Campus/11th Street Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District: South Shore Line
Chicago "L": Red, Green, Orange lines (at Roosevelt)
CTA Bus: 1, 3, 4, 6, 12, 18, 130, 146
18th Street
McCormick Place Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District: South Shore Line
CTA Bus: 3, 21
27th Street CTA Bus: 3, 21
31st Street Closed between 1960 and 1965
35th Street Closed between 1939 and 1957
39th Street (Oakland) Closed between 1939 and 1957
43rd Street Closed between 1960 and 1965
47th Street (Kenwood) CTA Bus: 2, 6, 28, 47
B 51st–53rd Street (Hyde Park) CTA Bus: 2, 6, 15, 28, 171, 172
55th–56th–57th Street Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District: South Shore Line
CTA Bus: 15, 28, 55, 171
59th Street/University of Chicago CTA Bus: 2, 6, 15, 28
63rd Street Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District: South Shore Line
CTA Bus: 63
67th Street Closed 1984[19] The platforms are still existent
72nd Street Closed between 1960 and 1965
75th Street (Grand Crossing) CTA Bus: 30, 75
79th Street (Chatham) CTA Bus: 79
C 83rd Street (Avalon Park)
87th Street (Woodruff) CTA Bus: 87
91st Street (Chesterfield)
95th Street/Chicago State University CTA Bus: 4, N5, 95, 100, 115
103rd Street (Rosemoor) CTA Bus: 4, 106, 115
107th Street CTA Bus: 4, 115
111th Street (Pullman) CTA Bus: 4, 115
Kensington/115th Street CTA Bus: 4, 111A, 115
130th Street (Wildwood) Closed between 1960 and 1965
D Riverdale Riverdale Pace: 348
Harvey 147th Street (Sibley Boulevard) Pace: 350, 352
Harvey Pace: 348, 349, 350, 352, 354, 356, 360, 361, 364, 877, 890
E Hazel Crest Hazel Crest Pace: 356
East Hazel Crest Calumet Pace: 356
Homewood Homewood Amtrak: City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki
Pace: 356 Harvey/Homewood/Tinley Park, 359 Robbins/South Kedzie Avenue, and 372 Dixie Highway
Flossmoor Flossmoor
F Olympia Fields Olympia Fields
211th Street (Lincoln Highway) Pace: 357
Matteson Matteson
Richton Park Richton Park
University Park University Park Pace: 367
River Valley Metro: University Park 1, University Park 2

South Chicago branch[edit]

The branch leaves the mainline south of the former 67th Street station.

Zone Location Station Connections and notes
B Chicago Stony Island CTA Bus: 28, 71
Bryn Mawr CTA Bus: N5, J14, 15, 71
South Shore CTA Bus: 6, 26, 71
Windsor Park CTA Bus: N5, 71, 75
Cheltenham CTA Bus: 79
83rd Street CTA Bus: N5, 26, 71
87th Street CTA Bus: 87
91st Street (South Chicago) Closed in 2001, replaced by South Chicago (93rd Street)
South Chicago (93rd Street) CTA Bus: N5, 26, 30, 71, 87, 95

Blue Island branch[edit]

The branch leaves the main line south of Kensington/115th Street.

Zone Location Station Connections and notes
D Chicago State Street CTA Bus: 34 South Michigan
Stewart Ridge
West Pullman CTA Bus: 8A, 108
Pace: 352, 359
Racine Avenue
Calumet Park Ashland Avenue
Burr Oak Pace: 359
Blue Island Blue Island–Vermont Street Metra: Rock Island District (at Blue Island–Vermont Street)
Pace: 348, 349, 359, 385


  1. ^ "Operations and Ridership Data". Metra. Commuter Rail Division of the Regional Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  2. ^ "COMMUTER RAIL RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL – 2014" (PDF). Metra: 3. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-26.
  3. ^ "Did you know?" (PDF). On the Bi-Level: 3. June 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-02.
  4. ^ "The best and worst of Metra's on-time performance". Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  5. ^ Allen & Benedict.
  6. ^ "Fair Transit South Cook |". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  7. ^ "Cook County's Pilot Program Aims To Boost Metra Electric, Rock Island Ridership By Slashing Fares In Half". Block Club Chicago. 2021-01-29. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  8. ^ "The Gold Line Proposal". Hyde park Urbanist. October 11, 2007. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  9. ^ Freemark, Yonah (July 6, 2009). "Chicago Transit Advocates Encourage Rapid Transit Conversion of Metra Line". The Transport Politic. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
  10. ^ "RTA Releases List of 19 Proposed Transit Projects Throughout the Region for Public Comment" (PDF). Regional Transportation Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 15, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  11. ^ Hilkevitch, Jon; Worthington, Rogers (18 April 1999). "Metra Wish List Grows With 3 Ambitious Lines". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  12. ^ Groark, Virginia (8 February 2005). "Metra line extension proposed to Peotone airport". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Metra proposes revised Metra Electric schedule | Metra".
  14. ^ "Final Metra Electric Line schedule revision released | Metra".
  15. ^ "RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL REPORT 2018" (PDF). Metra. p. 4. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  16. ^ "RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL REPORT 2019" (PDF). Metra. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  17. ^ New Highliners will roll out of the factory Archived 2012-09-07 at the Wayback Machine, Metra - On the Bi-Level, Commuter Newsletter, January 2011
  18. ^ "Metra - Metra Train #117 operates past the 18th St station".
  19. ^ Ridership Trends - Annual Report 2017 (PDF) (Report). Metra Division of Strategic Capital Planning. February 2018. p. 32. Retrieved November 4, 2018.


External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata

Media related to Metra Electric District at Wikimedia Commons