To adjust for the reduced number of riders due to school closures, work-from-home mandates and other consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, Metra began operating with an alternate weekday schedule on March 23.
Metra’s alternate schedules can be viewed at the website at metrarail.com.
Metra also announced on March 23, that doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics and other medical personnel on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic can ride Metra trains for free for the duration of the state's stay at home order.
Medical personnel just need to show their work ID to the conductor
The schedule change represents about half of Metra’s normal weekday service but provides adequate service for those who need to travel. There will be changes for every line except the Heritage Corridor, which will operate its normal schedule.
Where Metra is able, it will maintain the number of cars on trains to allow for social distancing. The reduced schedules will remain in effect until health officials deem the crisis has passed and/or ridership begins to return to normal.
On a line-by-line basis, Metra is monitoring ridership and may further reduce service to meet the ridership demands.
“This is an unprecedented situation; we are attempting to do our best to provide service for those who still need public transportation and match service with demand,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski.
Although Metra does not have hard numbers, it experienced a severe drop in ridership late last week, as the impact of the pandemic spread. That decline has continued, particularly after many businesses switched to work-from-home arrangements and Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered the closing of schools statewide and banned large gatherings in order to stop the spread of the virus.
Because it remains difficult to predict the demand for service, and therefore the amount of service required to meet that demand, further adjustments are possible if the alternate schedules prove inadequate. Metra will give customers ample warning if schedules need to be adjusted. Any potential changes to weekend schedules also will be announced with ample warning.
Metra is encouraging all riders to use the Ventra app for tickets because it requires less interaction with conductors. The app can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play.
The reduction in service will also give Metra a larger timeframe to clean its cars, concentrating on disinfecting high-touch areas such as handrails, door handles and seats, because it will need fewer train sets for service.
“We never take a reduction in service lightly, but we are using this as an opportunity to provide passengers with even safer conditions,” Derwinski said. “It is our intent to continue to provide train service unless instructed not to do so.”
Metra began assigning extra crews on weekends to do additional cleaning and disinfecting of cars and locomotives. It also brought in extra crews to clean and disinfect downtown stations.
Metra officials will continue to monitor the situation and stay in contact with federal, state and local health authorities.
For more information, visit the website at metrarail.com.