Newsletter: Three Important Steps for Metra and the Chicago Hub

Gov. Pritzker announces that Metra will serve Rockford at a press conference with a Metra locomotive visible on a bridge in the background.

Modernizing Chicago’s Metra rail system is an essential step towards building a high-speed and regional rail network for much of the country.  So, we are happy about several developments involving Metra that have happened in the last couple of weeks.

Note: David Kralik, AICP, Director of Planning and Programming at Metra, will be our “Brown Bag Lunch” webinar speaker on July 14. Register here.

Metra proposes simplified fare structure

Metra has proposed a new fare structure that will reduce the 10 existing zones to 4.  Fare types would also change.  The new structure will make using the system easier—not just for commuters to and from downtown, but for people traveling throughout the region. This is critical to making Regional Rail work.

You can learn more and provide your feedback at:

CMAP proposes Regional Rail

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning published a discussion draft of a presentation recommending converting Metra to Regional Rail.  This proposal is part of a bigger project to recommend improvements to Chicago-area transit services to be considered by the General Assembly in the Spring 2024 session.

The recommendations appear to align well with Metra’s plans and our hopes for the system.  Read the presentation

One reason that Regional Rail is so important is because it can help to drive renewal and growth in downtown Chicago—which in turn helps to power the economy of the entire Midwest.

Before COVID-19 hit, the Chicago Hub over-relied on 9-to-5 commuters. As a result, downtown suffered greatly during the pandemic. Regional Rail is a key part of the solution. It can help with the Hub’s recovery and make another setback less likely, by diversifying travel.

Instead of focusing just on bringing workers downtown in the morning and taking them home in the early evening, Regional Rail—with more frequent service throughout the day, including nights and weekends—can move people from throughout the region to downtown Chicago, to more easily to enjoy shopping, cultural attractions, and nightlife.

Investment in statewide Regional Rail is critical to the future of the region, and we appreciate CMAP’s work to show state lawmakers what to aim for.

Gov. Pritzker Announces Metra to serve Rockford

On Thursday, July 6, 2023, Governor Pritzker announced that Metra will operate the long-awaited service linking Rockford to Chicago.

This is an important step because it opens the way for Metra to play a bigger role in serving a broader region.

These trains will be funded differently than other trains in Metra’s system.  Most of Metra’s system is funded from a variety of local and state taxes, and Metra sets the schedules and service offerings.  In this case, the Illinois Department of Transportation will contract directly with Metra to operate specific trains, much like IDOT contracts with Amtrak to operate trains on four other routes.

As announced yesterday, the trains will start operating in 2027 with a limited offering of two daily roundtrips.  It is great that the Governor has taken action, and we need his leadership for more.  We hope the State will be able to get service started sooner and launch with more daily roundtrips.

Read More:

Northern Public Radio: Gov. Pritzker rolls into Rockford to announce Metra rail service

Rockford Register Star: Metra is coming to Rockford: Governor announces rail deal