To the Editor:

The Metra line through Hyde Park is a gift of infrastructure that is being squandered.

To put it bluntly, Metra doesn't run enough trains.  In the 1940s, this line ran a train every 6 minutes off-peak, with even more at rush hour!

In a sane world, service on the main trunk through Hyde Park would be every 10 minutes all day, which would be one train to each of the three branches every half hour.

Trains should operate on a "clock face schedule": If a train leaves 53rd at 8:08pm, there should be another at 8:18pm, 8:28pm, and so on.  This leads to predictability for passengers, and at suburban stations allows Pace to time feeder buses for convenient transfers.

At rush hour, express trains can be layered on top of this base schedule (there are separate express tracks, so no interference with locals).

If this sounds unrealistic, compare Green Line or the #6 bus, which run every 10 or 20 minutes all day until well after midnight, seven days a week — there is no reason that Metra can't provide that level of service on this quadruple-tracked electrified line.

In fact, Metra already has enough trains to run this kind of service, they simply sit in storage most of the day until rush hour.  That's not a good use of our investment.  We should run them continuously so people can actually ride them.

But Metra views itself as a "commuter railroad", primarily serving Loop office workers, and also has extremely high labor costs because each train has a minimum of three crew members.  Most urban trains have phased out conductors, including CTA in the 1990s, in order to run more trains on the same budget.  If that's what Metra needs to do to improve service, it should do it.

In the long run, more frequent and predictable service, along with cheap improvements like electronic displays listing upcoming departures near station entrances and a modern ticketing system, will attract more passengers and more revenue.

The 9-to-5 commuter isn't the only passenger.  Time to run more trains, Metra!

Steven Lucy

(4) comments

shoreview

Actually, in a truly sane world of more or less comparable population density -- let's say, south London as opposed to south Chicago -- they'd be running every five minutes on the main north of 63rd, with every ten minutes on the main south of there and three times an hour to Blue Island and three times an hour to South Shore. And connecting directly once again to South Shore at Kensington to allow true suburb-to-suburb commuting across the Southland, instead of bureaucratically hiding behind the excuse of an awkward track layout.

The question is, how do we get there? I think it would be a worthwhile exercise to think that one out, in terms of everything from land use to traffic management to public safety to economic development.

HPdecades

I imagine Metra would have more riders if there were a way to transfer between it and the CTA.

RailroadGuy

So many fallacies in this op-ed...

1.So many passengers ride Metra because the security 2 Conductors walking through constantly with company provided cell phones & radios to call Police instantly... You take that away & you will have 2 "RED LINES"..

2. METRA is synced with Google Maps & provides train tracking So there shouldn't be confusion on when the next train is coming.

3. Running empty trains to say you move every 20 minutes is a waste of taxpayer money... Metra DOES need to make its way back to every 30 minutes now that customers are returning

4. Metra CEO has already scheduled more trains to run by January 1st on the Metra Electric ( Hold him to that promise!

5. This city needs & loves its Hyde Park Residents & STUDENTS... But the traffic & numbers are already tracked for ridership & times...

HPdecades

I agree with much of what you wrote, but I know I f two people who were mugged while waiting on the platform when no one was nearby except the mugger. You have lots more opportunities to keep away from people while waiting for a bus.

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