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 njtmnrrbuff
Have there ever been any studies of ever extending the Metra UP-W Line to Dekalb? It seems that that would be a very good endpoint for Metra given the fact that that there is a university there. Plus Dekalb seems like it is large town.
  by justalurker66
2018 Metra says Chicago-to-DeKalb line in long-range plans

"It wasn’t for the lack of trying. When Metra first began planning to extend its the Union Pacific West line, an extension all the way to DeKalb was considered, but it ultimately never went past Elburn.

"But that hasn’t stopped residents from pushing service to and from DeKalb. Most recently, in February 2017, DeKalb resident Jane Rogers launched a petition calling for the extension, As of Sept. 13, it had 1,516 signatures.

"While the Chicago area’s 2040 Long-Range Transportation Plan – the most recently completed plan at press time – describes the extension as a long-range goal, DeKalb city officials declined to comment on how they feel about the idea."
  by njtmnrrbuff
That's great that an extension is being considered. I know right now, the university in Dekalb has buses that run to the Elburn Metra Station, located 20 minutes to the west. In order for Metra service to Dekalb to happen, it's important that Metra considers perhaps having their trains run express for part of the route; otherwise, the trip will take too long. According to the present Metra UP-W pandemic timetables, it looks like on weekdays, there are two express trains each way on weekdays. The express trains run express between Elmhurst and Chicago. If Metra ever goes to Dekalb, it might be good to look into having the semi express trains run nonstop between Lombard and Chicago or at least add a stop at Oak Park providing connections to Cta Rapid. It's been years since I rode the UP W Line or anything in Chicagoland pretty much other than the Racetrack. I know that UP is installing a third track along the UP-W Line.
  by eolesen
It's a tax issue. Illinois has lots of those, unfortunately.

Elburn is in Kane County, who belongs to the RTA's tax district. Metra could extend another 8 miles to downtown Maple Park, which is half in Kane County, and still be "legal"....

To extend the full 16 miles into DeKalb would require the entirety of DeKalb County voting to join the RTA and agree to what is currently a 0.75% sales tax, of which half would be spent in-county. Sandwich, literally just inside the DeKalb county line from Kane County, can't have service, either without that DeKalb County vote.

Just like extending Elburn to Dekalb would be a no-brainer under non-BizarroWorld situations, extending Metra to serve Belvedere or Rockford despite only being 12 and 30 miles west of Marengo (the furthest west station in McHenry County) is out of the question, as that would require Boone and Winnebago Counties to agree to the 0.75% tax.

I've said for a long time that the sales tax requirement is the biggest roadblock to having reasonable extensions of Metra as the suburbs grow into what used to be exurbs and farmland.

Short of modifying the RTA's underlying state law, it's apparently easier to throw millions upon millions to do studies to subsidize Amtrak.

Bus service for the last mile seems to work for the couple thousand people that actually use it... and it doesn't cost millions upon millions, and doesn't require taxing people for little to no benefit.
  by njtmnrrbuff
If Metra were to extend to Maple Park in the short term, that would certainly be progress. I know that several miles to the south of the UP-W Line, there is talk about extending the BNSF to Sandwich which is certainly in Dekalb County. If Metra is ever allowed to extend to Sandwich from Aurora, then hopefully the same can happen for the UP-W Line going to Dekalb. Hopefully the sales tax barriers can get resolved so that way Metra can extend some of their lines way into the exurbs.
Here in the Greater NYC area, Metro North's lines that start out at Grand Central Terminal terminate between 70-82 miles. The Harlem Line ends in Wassaic, which is located in rural Dutchess County, 82 miles from Grand Central Station. Dutchess County is pretty large. The MTA is forbidden from extending north of Dutchess County. The Hudson Line trains end in Poughkeepsie, located just over 70 miles from Grand Central Terminal and this is a fine place for the endpoint for MNR to be. Years ago, there was talk about extending the Hudson Line to Tivoli but the residents there didn't want that to happen. Plus many of them don't mind taking Amtrak from Rhinecliff or driving to Poughkeepsie or Beacon to take MNR.
  by eolesen
Amtrak is more likely to become wildly profitable before these counties willingly signs up up for a tax increase.

The only way Metra expands is if they're contracted by the state to operate services, and that seems even more unlikely since the state is essentially bankrupt.
  by justalurker66
6.7 miles to Maple Park (County Line) 14.7 miles to DeKalb. The track is in place so the cost would be the price of new stations. If Elburn doesn't have enough parking expanding the lot there would be cheaper than a new station. Extending to DeKalb would attract riders ... many of them already willing to drive the extra 15 miles to Elburn or take the bus link. Without the additional tax money from DeKalb county joining the RTA I don't see the line being built.
  by electricron
The idea that any transit agency can run subsidize trains , charging less in fares than it costs to run the trains, without offsetting tax revenues is a great way for the transit agency to go broke, enter bankruptcy, and reduce and eliminate services. Every transit agency in the whole wide world has a funding scheme based on taxes other than user fees (fares).
Transit agencies are local because they are funded locally with local taxes. Whether it is state, county, or city based varies, but few transit agencies provide services outside their service area (or tax area) without some form of compensation. But it is often easier to just join the local transit agency and pay those taxes.
Do you expect to enjoy the services of any club without first joining the club and paying membership dues? Really? If you live in an area outside a transit agency's service (tax) area and wish to have them provide your area with services, you first should be advocating that your area should be joining the transit agency by becoming a full partner paying all its dues (taxes).
Trains can be extended within their area of service (taxation) easily if both business and political cases can be made successfully. But that is an almost impossible task to extend a train beyond its service (taxation) area no matter how good the business case is, because it immediately fails the political case.

Additionally, the ideas of service area and tax area are the exact same thing when it comes to public anything.
  by eolesen
I have a problem expecting that my club membership is being funded by a couple hundred of my neighbors who will never directly benefit from my membership.

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  by justalurker66
electricron wrote: Sun Jun 13, 2021 7:48 amAdditionally, the ideas of service area and tax area are the exact same thing when it comes to public anything.
Not quite. Each Regional Transit Authority has a defined region and defined types of services they can support within that region. The region does not necessarily match the area that provides tax funding for the service. Funding is usually provided by a level of government that includes where the service will be provided, but that does not extend the service area to cover the entire area covered by the funding authority. Receiving federal funding does not open the agency to serving the entire country. Receiving state funding does not open the agency to serving the entire state.
  by eolesen
In the case of RTA, the entire county gets taxed for Dekalb and NIU's benefit. That's why it won't happen absent another funding vehicle eg state law being Amended to allow IDOT to contract with Metra to serve adjacent counties as they do with Amtrak in the longer corridors but in a combined IDOT/RTA service.

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  by Engineer Spike
That's a great question about whether the state could chip in, just like Amtrak. It is also a political nightmare. The funding can't be seen to just benefit one part of the state, or residents elsewhere would complain about the overall tax burden being placed on residents who will never be able to benefit from it. This is an issue which I have personally seen in three of the four states which I have lived in. All these states have a large metropolis, and are Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York. In all but my year in Naperville, I have not been able to benefit from many state funded services, which were aimed at Chicago, NYC, and Boston. The big question is ultimately how to get a state legislator from Ogle, Knox, or La Salle Counties, or other such places to vote for it?