Illinois Assistant Majority Leader Kam Buckner has laid out a vision for using publicly-owned electrified railroad tracks in two states as the core asset for modern passenger rail expansion. But first, the two agencies that own and operate commuter trains need to coordinate, not compete.
The Metra Electric is a four track mainline fully grade-separated serving passenger train from downtown Chicago through the entire South Side. Indiana borders Chicago and across the state line, the South Shore Line is a double-track electrified line that runs 100 miles all the way to South Bend (home of Notre Dame and former home of US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg). These two remarkable assets built a century ago have traditionally competed for riders, leading to the atrocious policies that sparked Representative Buckner’s letter.
Chicago-bound South Shore trains from Indiana, once they pull onto Metra’s mainline, do not allow any passengers to board. The train silently glides up to a Chicago South Side station (they are electric). Passengers disembark. But anyone who wants to get on is blocked by the conductor. No Chicagoans are welcome on this train. The doors shut and the train glides north to downtown, leaving people behind, waiting for another train they are welcome to ride. This happens often to Representative Buckner.
He wrote to the South Shore and to Metra telling them it’s time to change this policy.
And what’s more, it’s time to coordinate, collaborate and plan for a big future where these remarkable assets are extended and expanded and publicly-owned electric railroad tracks can extend from South Bend up to Michigan and even as far east as America’s greatest electrified passenger-only tracks: the Acela. He imagines an “airport” on the South Side of Chicago along these tracks, collecting passengers from the East on trains — both public like Amtrak and private like Brightline — paying a fee to use these tracks, like a climate-friendly tollway.
But first…let the people ride the trains.
Thank you Rep Buckner for your vision and effort to improve and expand modern passenger trains and seeing the Metra Electric and South Shore as key assets in our future high speed passenger rail service.
Any person who has stood on the Museum Campus Metra Electric platform and watched a South Shore Line train pull up, open the doors and be told by the conductor they are not allowed to enter the train to ride understands how frustrating that is. pic.twitter.com/72LeYptCe5
— Rep.Kam Buckner ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ (@RepKamBuckner) November 28, 2023