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: metraRI, JamesT4

  by metraRI
Daily Southtown wrote:Metra surge linked to Ryan work

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The search to find a spot in the suburban parking lots of the Rock Island District and Electric lines is taking a tad longer.

Seats on the trains are getting a little harder to find.

The wait to exit them once they arrive downtown is growing by the second.

For all of these inconveniences, thank Mr. Dan Ryan.

Since the Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction went into full bloom in April, the Metra lines originating from the Southland are seeing a surge in riders.

In April, the number of paid fares jumped 6.3 percent on the Electric Line and 6 percent on the Rock from the previous year.

The numbers for May and June are more telling.

In the two months combined, ridership compared to 2005 increased 7.4 percent on the Electric Line and 8 percent on the Rock.

"Clearly the Ryan is a factor," Metra spokesman Patrick Waldron said. "Common sense says it is a significant factor."

The Rock runs from Joliet to Chicago, cutting through the southwest suburbs and the city's Beverly and Gresham communities.

The Electric Line serves the south suburbs, stopping in Chicago's South Shore, Pullman and Hyde Park communities before arriving at downtown's Millennium Park station.

Both lines are natural draws for displaced Ryan commuters.

So is the SouthWest Service Line, which carries passengers from Manhattan to Chicago. The line saw a 21.7 percent boost in passengers from last year, but that is mostly attributable to the increased number of trains that started running in January.

It is not unusual for frustrated car lovers to drift to Metra when their commute becomes an obstacle course because of construction. It also is not unusual for them to drift back to their cars once the work is finished.

James Dodge, the Orland Park trustee who serves on the Metra board, is proposing rider surveys this fall to help explain the spike.

"Can we find out if they were past riders who came back? Or are they new Metra riders? If they are new riders, I would like to think we have a pretty good shot at keeping them," Dodge said. "We would like to think they would like to stay train commuters."

Gas prices, which have hovered around $3 a gallon for much of the summer, surely are playing a role, too.

On Metra's 11 lines combined, the number of paid trips is up 4.8 percent.

Whatever the reasons for the increase, they are adding up to a record year for Metra.

Through June, Metra handled 39 million trips in 2006. The most trips ever for the commuter railroad is 78 million in 2001.