Metra statement regarding MMA proposal

Publication Date
Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Metra applauds Senator Ram Villivalam and Representative Eva-Dina Delgado for their leadership in Springfield and for starting the conversation about the future of public transportation in northeast Illinois in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. We share the view that this is an opportunity to improve public transportation for this and future generations.

We all have the same goals to be the best in the nation when it comes to transit. Public transportation has long played an essential role in the regional economy, providing residents with safe, fast, affordable, and reliable connections to jobs, schools, friends, families, and much more. We all recognize the need for a thriving, efficient and effective system and we will all strive for a solution that preserves and improves transportation’s essential role.
Before, during and after the pandemic, Metra and its dedicated, professional workforce did its part. During its nearly 40-year history, Metra earned a well-deserved reputation for providing world-class service to the six-county area, while being a wise and responsible steward of funding from its riders and regional taxpayers.
However, Metra is facing a fiscal cliff in 2026, just like its sister agencies in the region, CTA, and Pace, and like other transit agencies across the country from California, New York, Pennsylvania, and even in our nation’s capital – Washington, D.C. Some peer agencies are facing a fiscal cliff even sooner.  It is caused by the pandemic-related changes to work patterns and commutes, which appear to be permanent. And it cannot be solved with fare increases and/or service cuts without devastating, counterproductive consequences.
Metra responded responsibly to the pandemic, taking steps that protected public health and its bottom line while providing critical service for essential workers and responding to the changing needs of its riders. It cut service when ridership plummeted but immediately adopted service restoration principles that prioritized consistent, frequent trains, memorable service patterns, new express service, transfers, reverse commutes, and regional equity.
Metra put those principles in action with new schedules on most lines. It also adopted a new strategic plan with a new vision for Metra – to provide fast, frequent service throughout the day, not just in rush periods. And even during the middle of the pandemic, it carried out a pilot reduced fare program with Cook County that promoted equity in disadvantaged communities. We are one of the first in the nation to do so.  
And Metra has taken a variety of other recent steps that demonstrate its commitment to its riders and to fiscal responsibility:

  • Launched a major initiative to rehabilitate and make accessible more than a dozen stations on the Metra Electric Line.
  • Ordered at least 200 state-of-the-art, multilevel cars that will be more comfortable, accessible, reliable, and safe than the outdated gallery cars they will replace.
  • Ordered eight two-car, battery-powered/zero emission trainsets, making Metra one of the first agencies in the nation to pursue this innovative technology.
  • Ordered and began taking delivery of 24 remanufactured SD70-MACH locomotives, which will significantly increase reliability and decrease pollution.
  • Adopted a major revision to its fare structure that customers can easily understand, that encourages ridership, simplifies onboard fare collection, and meets Metra’s financial and technical constraints.
  • Created a new customer service training program and a new Customer Response Team to provide riders with top-notch customer service.
  • Installed new, easy-to-use ticket vending machines at major stations, with a goal of installing them in every station over the next few years.
  • Launched a new train-tracker that provides riders with the most up-to-date train arrival and schedule information.
  • Installed new passenger information signs at numerous stations that provide information from the train-tracking system.
  • Implemented a new policy, facilitated by the installation of new racks on dozens of railcars, to allow bikes on every train.
  • Started a new pilot program with Cook County and RTA to provide reduced fare rates to low-income riders.
  • Started a new pilot program with the University of Illinois at Chicago to provide reduced fare rates to its students.
  • Agreed to work with IDOT to provide new rail service between Chicago and Rockford.
  • Continued its in-house railcar and locomotive rehab programs, saving Metra $172.2 million to date versus outsourcing and keeping jobs and dollars in Illinois and Chicago.
  • Started a major Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative.
  • Carried out well-received initiatives such as Holiday Trains, Earth Day cleanup, special weekend service on the Heritage Corridor, Toys for Tots drive and more.
  • Carried out numerous marketing initiatives that promoted Metra as the safest, most affordable, and most reliable travel option.

Metra is grateful for the generous aid it has received from federal, state, and local sources throughout its history and especially during and since the pandemic.
We deeply appreciate all of the work by the President, our congressional delegation, the Governor, and the Illinois General Assembly, for their strong support for public transportation and our riders through the region.
Metra stands ready to continue its work on behalf of regional riders and taxpayers. We want to be transparent; we want to listen to all stakeholders to address our funding issues; and we want to be part of the conversation to create the best possible public transportation system for the region.