Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by HammerJack
If you weren’t already aware, this last weekend, Metra offered a unlimited rail pass for Thursday-Sunday. Targeted at the Lollapalooza goers, the $20 rail pass allowed for unlimited rides anywhere on the system on any train for those four days. Having grown up around Metra, I decided to take it upon myself to ride all 11 Metra lines in one day. This would have cost around $60 normally, but thanks to the rail pass, I did it for a mere $20! Even though I had all day, it required a bit of planning to make sure I used my time efficiently. This is how I did it.

Heritage Corridor #914 - Joliet to Union Station (5.45-6.50)
Milwaukee District North #2103 - Union Station to Western Ave. (7.01-7.10)
North Central Service #101 - Western Ave. to Belmont Ave. (7.18-7.34)
***Walk from Belmont Ave. to Franklin Park***
Milwaukee District West #2220 - Franklin Park to Union Station (7.57-8.23)
Southwest Service #807 - Union Station to Wrightwood (8.35-9.01)
Southwest Service #818 - Wrightwood to Union Station (9.14-9.43)
BNSF #1229 - Union Station to Western Ave. (10.30-10.37)
***CTA Pink Line - Western Ave. to Ashland Ave. & CTA Green Line - Ashland Ave. to Harlem/Lake***
Union Pacific West #44* - Oak Park to Ogilvie (11.28-11.50)
Union Pacific Northwest #617 - Ogilvie to Clybourn (12.30-12.38)
Union Pacific North #338 - Clybourn to Ogilvie (1.17-1.28)
Metra Electric District #237** - Millennium to Blue Island (5.41-6.28)
Rock Island District #421 - Blue Island to Joliet (6.39-7.23)

I decided to start my day at Joliet, since both the RID and HC lines serve the station. I could ride one line to start the day, and finish on the other. Since the HC only runs during rush hours, I decided to bite the bullet and wake up early to get on a 5.45 train to Chicago. Upon arriving in Chicago, I decided to conveniently knock off the three Milwaukee District lines. I had a risky 11 minute connection to a MDN train, but the HC train arrived a few minutes early, so I had plenty of time. Conveniently, a NCS train was leaving a few minutes after the MDN train was, of which both were scheduled to stop at Western Ave. The MDN train took me one stop to Western Ave, where I switched to the NCS train right behind it. Since the NCS and MDW lines share the same tracks between Union Station and River Grove (the actual junction is located in Franklin Park), it made sense to take one line out and the other back in. Although each line has its own separate station in Franklin Park, they are only a 10 minute walk apart. After the NCS train dropped me off at Belmont Ave (the NCS station in Franklin Park), I made the walk over to the MDW station in Franklin Park, which is simply called Franklin Park. Switching lines at River Grove would have eliminated the walk, but my NCS train was not scheduled to stop there. Furthermore, MDW express trains run express from Franklin Park to Western Ave; River Grove is only served by the locals which make all stops from there to Chicago. The walk was worth the time, as my MDW train ran express from Franklin Park to Western Ave. Upon arriving at Union Station, I made another risky 12 minute connection to the 8.35 outbound SWS train. When it comes to using time efficiently, the SWS is a bit of a pain. Unlike the lines I had already knocked off, the SWS does not have any stations that are shared with other lines (excluding Chicago, obviously). This means that I had to take an outbound SWS train from Union to an intermediate stop, then wait for an inbound SWS back to Union. Furthermore, the first station out of Chicago is Wrightwood, which is a lengthy 25 minute ride from Union. Fortunately, there was only a 13 minute turnaround at Wrightwood for the inbound to take me back to Union. I had to be careful with this line. As mentioned before, I had a 13 minute turnaround at Wrightwood. However, the next two SWS departures from Union at 10.35 and 12.35 have 93 minute and a whopping 138 minute turnarounds at Wrightwood, respectively. However, the 2.40 departure has a 13 minute turnaround. It becomes apparent that careful planning was needed to avoid wasting time at Wrightwood. After arriving back at Union Station at 9.43, I had a bit of downtime until the 10.30 BNSF train. Prior to this downtime, I consider to have used my time extremely efficiently; I had knocked off 5 lines with minimal downtime. Although a few of the connection times were on the shorter side, they were all reasonable and ended up working out with time to spare. Anyways, the BNSF is similar to the SWS in regards to it having no stations outside of Chicago that are shared with another line. There is one other line that shares this characteristic, and it is the UPW. To avoid doing an ‘out and back’ on both the BNSF and UPW, like I did on the SWS, I found a sneaky way around it. I would take the BNSF to Western Ave, where I would walk a few blocks south to the CTA Pink Line station at Western Ave. I would ride that to the Ashland Ave station and transfer to the Green Line, which would take me west to the Harlem/Lake station. Harlem/Lake is connected to the Oak Park station on the UPW line. Then, I would take the UPW line inbound to Chicago. What a great plan! The schedules gave me 51 minutes to get from the BNSF to the UPW. I made the trip in about 45 minutes, but in hindsight, I should have never attempted this. I was vey fortunate with the timing of the CTA trains. I waited a short four minutes for the Pink Line at Western Ave, and did wait at all to transfer to the Green Line. Even with better than expected wait times, I still used a solid 45 minutes. With poor timing of the CTA transfers, I would have never made the UPW train. Actually, that isn’t true. *I was supposed to take UPW train #44 from Oak Park to Ogilvie, but apparently, #44 became filled to capacity by Glen Ellyn. Darn Lollapalooza crowds. Metra decided to express #44 to Chicago and run a extra train to pick up everyone from Lombard to Kedzie, which includes Oak Park. This meant I had an addition 30 minutes at Oak Park to wait for the extra time to come behind #44. However, this presented a problem. I was supposed to catch a 12.30 UPNW train out of Ogilvie. There was a serious risk of missing the UPNW train. Fortunately, there was 40 minutes scheduled of downtime at Ogilvie before the UPNW train, but with the extra UPW train running behind #44’s schedule, would I make the connection? #44 is supposed to arrive Ogilvie at 11.50. The extra train arrived at 12.28. After a quick sprint across the platforms, I made it on to the 12.30 train just before the doors closed. It was definitely a close call, but it worked out! After a short ride up to Clybourn, I waited about 30 minutes for an inbound UPN back to Ogilvie. Although it would’ve been nice to wait less than 30 minutes at Clybourn, the midday schedule simply did not allow for anything better. Nonetheless, both the UPNW and UPN lines sharing Clybourn station helped out a lot and saved some time. After reaching Ogilvie once again, I had two more lines to ride: the Metra Electric District and Rock Island District. Since both lines share the Blue Island Station, the logical plan was to take an outbound MED train to Blue Island, then connect to a RID train to Joliet to finish off the day. However, it was only midday, and I wanted to sick around for the busy rush hour on the MED, so I took a break from the Metra lines. I was also planning on getting lunch during this time, but I got hungry early and grabbed a sandwich in Oak Park while waiting for the extra UPW train. Oh well. I did still go over to Millennium, but not for the Metra. I hadn’t taken a ride on the South Shore Line in years, so I figured I would spend an extra few bucks and go for a quick ride! I rode from Millennium to Hegewisch and back to 57th Street. I had two reasons for riding the South Shore. First, I had not ridden it in years. Second, I wanted to eliminate all controversy about me not riding all the Metra lines if I had skipped the South Shore. I know, I know, the South Shore isn’t a Metra line, but just in case someone was going to make a comment about it, now they can’t. Attention everyone: I rode the South Shore Line too! No controversy please. Anyway, I found myself at 57th Street as rush hour was beginning, and decided to have some fun on the MED. I hopped on the next inbound Metra and got off at 11th Street. I had wanted to watch the MED rush hour action somewhere, and I figured that 11th Street would suffice. **My outbound train was MED #237, a local to Blue Island. But please, did I really want to make ALL the stops between 57th Street and Kensington/115th? Of course not! So I consulted the schedules and devised a quick plan. I watched #237 arrive and depart 11th Street without me, and then quickly boarded the next mainline express train. This train was an express to 57th Street and again to Kensington/115th. Even though it left 11th Street after #237, it was scheduled to arrive Kensington/115th before #237. Sure enough, we overtook #237 just after 63rd Street. Thank goodness for the express tracks! After waiting at Kensington/115th for a few minutes, #237 picked me up and took me to Blue Island. I realize that I kind of abused the rail pass on the MED, but hey, Metra got their $20, so everyone’s happy. After arriving at Blue Island, I crossed the street to the RID platforms. The connection at Blue Island between the MED and RID worked out very nice, and it gave me excuse to ride the Blue Island branch of the MED, which I have a liking for. After a few minutes at Blue Island, the RID train, the last ride of the day for me, arrived and took me to Joliet, ending my day on the Metra.

14 hours earlier, as I had stepped on a HC train for Chicago on the other platform. Now, as I stepped off the RID train, I had ridden all 11 Metra lines in one day. I most definitely enjoyed my adventure, and am proud to say that I rode all the Metra lines in one day! I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the first person to ever do this. Part of the reason I am sharing this adventure is to inspire some of you to do what I did! If you love trains, have a weekday free of any commitments, and don’t mind spending some money on tickets (or wait for next year’s Lollapalooza), give it a try! See if you can find a more efficient or more enjoyable method than I did. Please feel free to share any comments, criticisms, or questions you may have about my plan!

Thank you for reading!

  by doepack
Sounded like fun, glad you had a good time. Certainly got your money's worth...
  by Bob Roberts
I am VERY impressed. You are my hero (I say that completely unironically)

Good post showing your try at riding at least a portion of each Metra line...

I note the mention of Wrightwood on the SWS and recall that there is a single track section between Forest Hill (E of Western Avenue) and just to the west
of Wrightwood Station (W 79th St/S Kedzie Av) going around Norfolk Southern's Landers Yard - a good place to change directions.

With the pass good for four days I would have tried to see how many entire routes I could cover - primarily during daylight hours if this pass was valid during
AM Peak hours and if I had the time available to try...I would have plotted out a plan and taken my best shot - the trouble with the Weekend Pass is that some
routes either operate infrequently - incurring too long a layover at one end of a route - or in the case of the HC for example not at all...

More then likely one would need four days if a itinerary of this type was tried - Has anyone ever attempted to ride each line in Metra's system in this manner?

  by CHTT1
For several years, I managed to ride all the Metra and South Shore lines from end to end. These rides were spread out during the summer and fall. The one line I have missed was the McHenry branch of the UP Northwest Line because I could never figure out how to ride it from my base in the south suburbs due to its limited schedule. I haven't done this in a while and since I now qualify for the half-rate senior fare I could do it for a lot less money. You just can't do this on a weekend pass because of the long, slow all-stops nature of the weekend schedule and the fact that several lines don't run on the weekends. Congrats on doing the all-Metra run in one day. That's quite a feat.