Metra (reporting mark METX) is a commuter railroad in the Chicago metropolitan area. The railroad operates 242 stations on 11 different rail lines.[1] It is the fourth busiest commuter rail system in the United States by ridership and the largest and busiest commuter rail system outside the New York City metropolitan area.[5] There were 83.4 million passenger rides in 2014, up 1.3% from the previous year.[6] The estimated busiest day for Metra ridership occurred on November 4, 2016—the day of the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series victory rally.[7]

Using Chicago's rail infrastructure, much of which dates to the 1850s, the Illinois General Assembly established the parent Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to consolidate all public transit operations in the Chicago area, including commuter rail. The RTA's creation was a result of the anticipated failure of commuter service operated and owned by various private railroad companies in the 1970s. In 1984, RTA formed a commuter rail division to focus on rail operations, which branded itself as Metra in 1985. Freight rail companies still operate some Metra routes under contracted service agreements. Metra owns all rolling stock and is responsible for all stations along with the respective municipalities. Since its inception, Metra has directed more than $5 billion into the commuter rail system of the Chicago metropolitan area.

Metra Logo
20110530 Metra
MP36 #418 leads a train out of Union Station in Chicago.
OwnerRegional Transportation Authority (RTA)
LocaleChicago Metropolitan Area, United States
Transit typeCommuter rail
Number of lines11[1]
Number of stations242[1][2]
Daily ridership292,000 (weekday, FY2013)[3]
109,700 (weekend, FY2013)[3]
Chief executiveJames M. Derwinski[4]
Began operation1984
Union Pacific, BNSF
Reporting marksMETX
System length487.7 mi (784.9 km)[2]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)


Early Chicago commuter rail

Since its founding in the 19th century, Chicago has been a major Midwestern hub in the North American rail network.[8] It has more trackage radiating in more directions than any other city in North America.[8] Railroads set up their headquarters in the city and Chicago became a center for building freight cars, passenger cars and diesel locomotives.

By the 1930s Chicago had the world's largest public transportation system, but commuter rail services started to decline.[9] By the mid-1970s, the commuter lines faced an uncertain future. The Burlington Northern, Milwaukee Road, Chicago and North Western and Illinois Central were losing money and were using passenger cars dating as far back as the 1920s.[10]

Formation of the RTA

Elgin (289733876)
RTA EMD F40PH No. 123 crossing the Fox River in Elgin, Illinois in 1981

To provide stability to the commuter rail system, the Illinois General Assembly formed the Regional Transportation Authority in 1974.[11] Its purpose was to fund and plan the Chicago region's public transportation. In the beginning the Regional Transportation Authority commuter train fleet consisted of second-hand equipment, until 1976 when the first order of new EMD F40PH locomotives arrived. That F40PH fleet is still in service today.[10] The companies that had long provided commuter rail in the Chicago area continued to operate their lines under contract to the RTA.[11]

Less than a decade later the Regional Transportation Authority was already suffering from ongoing financial problems. Additionally, two rail providers, the Rock Island Line and the Milwaukee Road, went bankrupt, forcing the RTA to create the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation to operate their lines directly in 1982. In 1983 the Illinois Legislature reorganized the agency. That reorganization left the Regional Transportation Authority in charge of day-to-day operations of all bus, heavy rail and commuter rail services throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. It was also responsible for directing fare and service levels, setting up budgets, finding sources for capital investment and planning. A new Commuter Rail Division was created to handle commuter rail operations; along with CTA and Pace, it was one of RTA's three "service boards."[11]

Metra branding

Metra 614
Metra EMD F40C No. 614 in Chicago.

The board of the RTA Commuter Rail Division first met in 1984. In an effort to simplify the operation of commuter rail in the Chicago area, in July 1985 it adopted a unified brand for the entire system–Metra, or Metropolitan Rail.[12] The newly reorganized Metra service helped to bring a single identity to the many infrastructure components serviced by the Regional Transportation Authority's commuter rail system.[11] However, the system is still legally known as the Commuter Rail Division of the RTA.

Today, Metra's operating arm, the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation, operates seven Metra owned routes. Four other routes continue to be operated by Union Pacific (formerly Chicago & North Western) and BNSF (formerly Burlington Northern) under contract to Metra. Service throughout the network is provided under the Metra name (in keeping with Metra's goal of providing a single identity for all commuter rail in the region). Metra also owns all rolling stock, controls fares and staffing levels, and is responsible for most of the stations. However, the freight carriers who operate routes under contract use their own employees and control the right-of-way for those routes.[11]

Growth and expansion

In the late 20th and early 21st century Metra experienced record ridership and expanded its services. In 1996 Metra organized its first new line, the North Central Service, running from Union Station to Antioch. By 2006 it added new intermediate stops to that same route, extended the Union Pacific / West Line from Geneva to Elburn and extended SouthWest Service from Orland Park to Manhattan. In 2012 it boasted 95.8% average on-time performance (measured only for a train's arrivals at its last station no more than six minutes late).[13] It also posted its fourth highest volume in its history despite decreases in employment opportunities in downtown Chicago.[14]

Metra continued to seek expansion options and to improve passenger service. Over the past three decades, Metra has invested more than $5 billion into its infrastructure. That investment has been used to purchase new rolling stock, build new stations, renovate tracks, modernize signal systems and upgrade support facilities.[11] In addition to core improvements on the Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West routes, planning advanced on two new Metra routes, SouthEast Service and the Suburban Transit Access Route.[15]


Metra also has been marred by allegations and investigations of corruption. In April 2002, board member Don Udstuen resigned from both Metra and his executive job with the Illinois State Medical Society, after admitting to taking bribes to steer Metra contracts to firms associated with former legislator Roger Stanley and pleading guilty to his part in Illinois's Operation Safe Road scandal.[16]

In April 2010 Metra's executive director, Phil Pagano, faced investigation for taking an unauthorized $56,000 bonus and was later found to have improperly received $475,000 in vacation pay. The day that the agency's board was scheduled to discuss his fate, Pagano stepped in front of a moving Metra train in an apparent suicide.[17] Around the time of Pagano's death, allegations also surfaced that a Metra employee demanded a $2,000 payoff from the studio that used Metra in the 2011 film Source Code. That employee was later relieved of his duties, and retired.[18]

In June 2013, Metra CEO Alex Clifford abruptly resigned his position with no public comment. It gradually was reported that his exit had been demanded by the Metra board, which negotiated a $871,000 severance package including a non-disclosure agreement.[19] Clifford's ouster was allegedly arranged because he rejected requests for patronage hiring and promotion, including a request to promote a longtime supporter of State Representative Michael Madigan.[20] In the wake of this scandal, five board members resigned.[21] In August 2013, the remaining board members unanimously elected Don Orseno as interim CEO. (The six-member board was operating with reduced membership and thus lacked the authority to elect a permanent CEO. Orseno and Alex Wiggins shared duties as co-executive directors.) Orseno's long railroad career, beginning with work to set up trains and check doors for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad played favorably in the board's decision.[22][23][24] By October 2013, local officials had restored Metra's board to 11 members.[25] After reviewing four candidates, the re-constituted board formally appointed Orseno CEO of Metra in January 2014.[26][27] In 2014, "a lengthy history of political patronage hiring at" Metra was reported, based on past files.[28]


Geneva Metra 071020
Passengers near an inbound train at Geneva Station.


Metra serves passengers through stations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Each station, unless a route or branch terminus, provides travel toward (inbound) and away from (outbound) downtown Chicago. Therefore, a passenger can connect between the city and a suburb or between two points in the suburbs using Metra service. Although Metra's commuter rail system is designed to connect points all over the Chicago metropolitan area, it does provide some intracity connections within Chicago.[29]

Metra trains originate from one of four stations in downtown Chicago. Six lines originate at Union Station. The three Union Pacific lines originate at Ogilvie Transportation Center. The Rock Island District originates at LaSalle Street Station, and the Metra Electric District originates at Millennium Station. These terminals are situated within walking distance of the Chicago Loop, so Metra passengers may easily transfer to a different Metra line upon their arrival downtown.[29] Metra's urban-centric service remains popular with suburban commuters working downtown, reverse commuters, and those who visit Chicago for recreational activities and tourism.[30]

Stations are found throughout Chicago, as well as in suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties–an area largely coextensive with the inner ring of the Chicago metropolitan area. One station is located in Kenosha, Wisconsin.


Of Metra's 11 routes, four are operated under contract. The BNSF Line service is operated by BNSF Railway. The lines out of the Ogilvie Transportation Center (formerly North Western Station) are operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. Lines not contracted are operated by the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Rail Corporation (NIRC), Metra's operating subsidiary. Inbound trains on every line at all times run through to their Chicago terminus, however, many outbound trains do not run through to their respective lines' terminus (for example, most trains on the Union Pacific/Northwest Line do not run through to Harvard; instead, terminating at Crystal Lake).

 BNSF Railway Line

The BNSF Railway Line is Metra's busiest route. This 37.1-mile (59.7 km) route runs from Union Station to Aurora, Illinois. It had an average of 64,600 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

 Heritage Corridor

Metra’s least patronized line, the Heritage Corridor is a 37.1-mile (59.7 km) route, running from Union Station to Joliet, Illinois during peak hours only. It had an average of 2,600 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]
Metra Electric train
Metra Electric Highliners at 59th Street station.

 Metra Electric District

The shortest Metra Line, the Metra Electric District is a 31.5-mile (50.7 km) route from Millennium Station to University Park, with branch lines serving Blue Island and South Chicago. The line had an average of 36,200 passenger weekday trips in 2010.[29]

 Milwaukee District / North Line:

The Milwaukee District / North Line is a 49.74-mile (80.05 km) route from Union Station to Fox Lake, Illinois. The line had an average of 23,500 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

 Milwaukee District / West Line

The Milwaukee District / West Line is a 40.02-mile (64.41 km) route from Union Station to Big Timber Road in Elgin, Illinois; on weekends, service terminates in downtown Elgin. The line had an average of 22,300 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

 North Central Service

The North Central Service is a 52.91-mile (85.15 km) route from Union Station to Antioch, Illinois. It had an average of 5,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

 Rock Island District

The Rock Island District is a 46.8-mile (75.3 km) route to southwest and southern suburbs. The line has 26 stations on two branches from LaSalle Street Station to Joliet. It had an average of 30,500 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

 SouthWest Service

The SouthWest Service is a 40.8-mile (65.7 km) route from Union Station to Manhattan, Illinois. It had an average of 9,500 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

 Union Pacific / North Line:

The Union Pacific / North Line is a 51.61-mile (83.06 km) route from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with most trains ending in Waukegan, Illinois. The line had an average of 36,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

 Union Pacific / Northwest Line

The longest Metra route, the Union Pacific / Northwest Line is a 63.16-mile (101.65 km) route from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Harvard, Illinois, with most trains ending in Crystal Lake, with a 7.59-mile (12.21 km) branch line from Pingree Road to McHenry.[31] The line had an average of 40,900 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

 Union Pacific / West Line

The Union Pacific / West Line is a 43.8-mile (70.5 km) route running from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Elburn, Illinois. The line had an average of 29,400 weekday passenger trips in 2010.[29]

Proposed routes

Metra proposed two routes in the early 2000s, SouthEast Service, which would connect some portions of the southern suburbs with downtown Chicago, and the Suburban Transit Access Route, which would connect various suburbs with each other without going into the downtown. Both of these proposals are defunct.


Transportation in Chicago consists of a public transportation infrastructure allowing for intermodal connections to local, regional, national and international transportation services. Parking lots are available adjacent to most suburban Metra stations for passengers connecting with their train by car. Most parking lots are operated by the municipality they are located in. Fees and fines are also assessed by the local municipality; however, parking is usually free on weekends and most holidays.[32] Mass transit CTA and suburban Pace buses connect with many Metra stations downtown and in the suburbs. Monthly pass holders are offered link-up options with these services.[33] In addition, many intercity bus lines connect with passengers outside of Union Station.[34]

The Chicago "L" also has transfers with Metra at some Chicago stations. Most 'L' lines traverse the Loop allowing nearby access to all downtown Metra terminals. There are also transfer points between Metra and the 'L' outside of the Loop, such as transfers from the Union Pacific/Northwest Line to the Blue Line at Irving Park and Jefferson Park Transit Center; and from the Union Pacific / West Line to the Green Line at Oak Park.[35] 'L' trains announce downtown Metra connections on board when announcing the next 'L' stop.

Union Station doubles as both a Metra station and Amtrak's station in Chicago.[36] In addition to Illinois Service and Hiawatha Service, Amtrak trains run nationwide including service to states spanning both coastlines.[37] Passengers connecting from Ogilvie Transportation Center can access Union Station through its north platforms on the opposite side of Madison Street,[36] with Millennium and LaSalle stations also within a short walking distance of Union Station as well. A number of suburban Metra stations are also shared with Amtrak as well.

The South Shore Line, an interurban line connecting Chicago with the Indiana suburbs and South Bend, originates at Millennium Station and operates along much of the Chicago portion of the Electric District line, as far south as 63rd Street. Per a longstanding noncompete agreement, eastbound South Shore trains only stop at shared Electric District stations to board passengers, and westbound South Shore trains only stop to discharge passengers.

Positive train control

In regards to the PTC mandate that passed Congress, Metra took steps to meet the deadline. Metra concluded that the December 31, 2015 mandate to have PTC running was an unreasonable requirement. This aligns with the stance taken by much of the railroad industry.[38] This is due to a variety factors including but not limited to: delays from the government and the fundamental complexity of building a program from the ground up. Moreover, Metra estimates the cost of implementing the system on their 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of track in the Chicago region to be over $200 million.[39] The fear is this unfunded mandate will divert scarce capital funds from other essential needs. This includes building and maintaining existing tracks, stations, signals, and other equipment that ensures a safe operating environment for all of Metra’s passengers. However, Metra recognizes the need for PTC but just would like a more reasonable timeline to implement such a program. This recognition is partially based on Metra’s previous accident history. Two noteworthy events were a pair of accidents on the Rock Island District within a span of a couple of years. The first event was a derailment that occurred on October 12, 2003 when a train flew through a 10 mph crossing at 68 mph. A second very similar occurrence happened on September 17, 2005 but was more serious. This derailment killed 2 passengers and injured 117.[39] Both of these incidents could have been prevented if PTC were in place. In both circumstances PTC would have overridden the engineer and slowed the train down to the appropriate speed to prevent an accident from occurring.

Recently, Metra has taken significant steps in the process to fully implementing PTC. On April 22, 2015 the Metra board approved an $80 million contract to Parsons Transportation Group.[40] Parson’s was the sole bidder and speaks to the complexities of the project. They will be in charge of incorporating various devices from GPS, radio, to trackside antennas into one cohesive system. The group has some experience in this sector previously as Parsons worked with the southern California commuter rail agency Metrolink to install their system.

Fare system and ticketing

Metra bilevel entrance
Entrance to a Metra bilevel rail car.

Fare is determined by the distance travelled by a passenger. Each station along every route has been placed in a specific zone based on its distance from its respective downtown station. Downtown terminal and downtown stations are classified as zone 'A' and each additional zone generally represents an added 5 miles (8.0 km) from the downtown terminus. Multiple stations can be placed in the same zone even though they are on the same line.[33] Fare zones include A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, and M. There are no stations in zone L.


Several ticketing options exist for passengers. Riders may choose to purchase one-way tickets, ten-ride tickets, weekend passes or monthly passes.[41]

  • A one-way ticket is used for one-way travel between two stations. For roundtrip travel, two one-way tickets can be purchased. One-way tickets can be purchased from ticket agents or on the train from a conductor. Conductors will charge an extra $5 if a ticket agent was available at the passenger's departing station.[33][42][43]
  • A ten-ride provides ten rides between two zones determined at the time of purchase. Ten-rides can be shared between passengers and expire after one year from the date of purchase. Ten-rides can be purchased from ticket agents, by mail or online from Metra's website.[33]
  • A weekend pass provides unlimited travel between any and all zones for one passenger on a Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes weekend passes are extended to include holidays adjacent to the weekend. Weekend passes can always be purchased from conductors without a surcharge and from ticket agents. As of 2018, weekend passes cost $10.[33]
  • A monthly pass provides unlimited travel between any two zones for one passenger on every day of a respective month. Monthly passes can be used on any line within the specified zones. Monthly passes can be purchased from ticket agents, by mail or online from Metra's website. Monthly pass holders may also purchase a Pace PlusBus card in conjunction with their monthly pass purchase. The PlusBus card provides unlimited rides on all Pace suburban buses.[44] A CTA/Pace Link-Up pass is also available for purchase. On CTA buses and the CTA 'L' the Link-Up pass allows unlimited travel during weekday rush hours and on Pace buses it allows unlimited travel anytime. Monthly pass holders may also travel beyond the zones listed on the monthly pass by purchasing incremental tickets from conductors on the train. Incremental tickets cost $1 beyond the first zone and 50 cents for every additional zone thereafter. There is no surcharge to purchase incremental tickets for monthly pass holders.[33]

Reduced fare programs

Metra allows some travellers to purchase reduced fare tickets or even ride for free. These reduced fare and free ride programs are administered by Metra and the RTA. Some pre-college students, youth, senior citizens, members of the United States Armed Forces and persons with disabilities may qualify for these programs. Time-based and geographical restrictions apply to these programs and passengers must ensure they qualify before attempting to purchase special tickets or ride for free.[33]

Safety and security

Metra Trains at Waukeegan
Metra F40PH locomotives at the Waukegan Station.

Metra employees, the Metra Police Department and other public safety agencies are responsible for maintaining safety and security on its lines, aboard its trains and at stations all to various degrees. Although rail transport is one of the safest forms of land travel,[45] compromises to Metra's safety and security can occur through pedestrian accidents, suicide attempts, vehicle collisions, derailment, terrorism and other incidents. Failing to maintain safety and security can result in equipment and infrastructure damage, extensive service disruptions, traumatic injuries and loss of life. Therefore, Metra and other agencies consider safety a top priority and dedicate a significant amount of resources to combat these dangers.[46]

Starting in early summer of 2013 Metra has announced plans to up police patrols on to the seven lines the agency operates: the Milwaukee Districts North and West, the North Central Service, the Heritage Corridor, South West Service, Rock Island and Electric District. The police patrols will not be on the BNSF and Union Pacific train lines because those line are operated by the railroads that own them and security falls to those companies. When asked why there were increasing patrols spokesman Michael Gillis said, "There is no particular reason, other than the fact that we want to be more proactive and more deliberately visible to our riders,"[47]

Law enforcement

The Metra Police Department is a special law enforcement agency charged with providing police services to passengers, employees, equipment and property. The department has more than 100 police officers and is responsible for the safety of all routes and stations.[48] In an effort to help coordinate emergency preparedness and incident management, all Metra police officers are certified in the National Incident Management System.[49] In addition, Metra police works with the Chicago Police Department as a member of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy.[48] To date, only one Metra police officer has been killed in the line of duty.[50]

Rail safety

The focus on rail safety by Metra comes from many fronts beyond operations including emergency preparedness and public awareness.[49] The setup of railway platforms, use of grade crossing signals and horn blasts make up a critical system used to communicate movements of commuter trains to pedestrians and vehicles. Outside of these operational components, Metra aggressively pursues safety through public awareness. Metra utilizes its own Operation Lifesaver program and uses it to help spread safety messages. Metra also holds events promoting rail safety at schools and organizes a safety poster contest awarding winners with prizes and features their poster on monthly passes and at stations.[46]

Metra has been honored with several E. H. Harriman Awards for employee safety, most recently with a Bronze award in class B (line-haul railroads with between 4 and 15 million employee hours per year) for 2005. Previous Harriman Awards conferred to Metra include Gold awards for 2003 and 2004 and a Silver award for 2002.[51]

Metra expects to implement positive train control on its entire system in 2019, four years after the federally mandated 2015 deadline.[52]


Metra related fatalities: The bar graph above shows the number of non-employee, Metra related deaths (listed vertically). This graph uses data from the previous decade and is organized by year (horizontally).[53]

There were 156 non-employee fatalities involving Metra equipment and Metra owned track between 2001 and 2010.[53] On average 15 people were killed annually based on data from that decade. The highest number of fatalities in a year throughout that time occurred in 2002, with 23 deaths and in 2010, with 21 deaths. The majority of these fatalities occurred at grade crossings and on railway involving an impact with a train; only four deaths involved passengers aboard the train.[53]

The worst passenger rail disaster in Illinois occurred prior to the formation of Regional Transportation Authority. The 1972 Chicago commuter rail crash consisted of a two train collision on track now used for the Metra Electric District. The collision resulted in 45 deaths and 332 injuries.[54] Two decades later, Metra experienced its first rail disaster, the 1995 Fox River Grove bus–train collision.[55] This accident involved a collision of a Metra train and a school bus at a grade crossing resulting in 21 injuries and the deaths of seven high school students.[55] In 2003, another incident involved a train derailing while switching from one track to another, injuring 45 passengers. In 2005, a train carrying 200 passengers along the same stretch of track derailed and then collided with a steel bridge resulting in two deaths and 117 injured. The cause of both accidents was ruled to be human error; the trains were going at speeds in excess of 68 miles per hour (109 km/h) when they should have been going 10 miles per hour (16 km/h).[56][57]

In addition to the loss of life, injuries, damage and service disruptions caused by accidents, Metra and other transportation agencies have been involved in multimillion-dollar lawsuits and settlements stemming from safety failures.[58][59] These failures have also resulted in updated safety policies and adjustments of equipment and warning devices.[55]

Rolling stock

Locomotive fleet

All of Metra's locomotives are diesel-electric locomotives. The bulk of its locomotive fleet consists of F40PH locomotives. The Electric District uses electric multiple units.

Metra Locomotives F40PH-2 & MP36PH-3S
Metra F40PH-2 locomotive #181 coupled with MP36PH-3S locomotive #410
Metra Locomotive EMD F40PHM-2
Metra F40PHM-2 locomotive #206
Builder Model Road numbers Year


Routes assigned Notes
EMD SW1 1–2 1939 Switch service RI, Number 1 has been modified with MU Car couplers and is the oldest operating loco in the U.S. that is not preserved. It is used to transfer cars from Metra Electric at Blue Island to the Blue Island wheel house to maintain proper wheel profile on Metra Electric MU cars. Both originally Illinois Central units, then sold to Rock Island. Conveyed to RTA in the take over of commuter service.
EMD SW1200 3 N/A Rock Island District, switch service, work trains Originally Milwaukee Road
EMD SW1500 4–9 N/A RI, Milwaukee West, Milwaukee North, ME 7 Sold to NRE in Dixmoor IL as of 2015
EMD SD70MACH TBD TBD TBD Used SD70MAC locomotives to be converted for Metra service. 15 on order, with options for 27 more.[60]
EMD F59PHI 73-93 1998 Milwaukee District, North Central Service, Heritage Corridor Ex-Amtrak Cascades and Pacific Surfliner 450-470 (Metra numbers in order), the first of these were delivered to Metra at the end of October 2018.[61]
EMD F59PH 97-99 [62][63] 1988 All Milwaukee District Lines, North Central Service, Heritage Corridor Ex-AMT. Brought into service in 2015. Painted in "lightning bolt" paint scheme. 3 more on order.[64]
EMD F40PH-3 100–149, 173-184, 215-217 1976–1981 All Diesel Routes 100-149 rebuilt to -3 specifications between 2008-2012[65]

100 repainted into RTA wrap from September 14, 2017-mid 2018

215-216 sold to Metra in 2009 by the Tennessee Central Railway Museum and refurbished by Progress Rail prior to service. 215 suffered a major fire on December 3, 2018 and has not returned to service since. [66]

EMD F40PH-2 150–172 1979–1983 Union Pacific Lines 174-184 Rebuilt to phase 3 status between 2016-2017. Former F40PH-2 175 was converted to an F40PH-3 and became the first F40PH-series locomotive to receive the current Metra "lightning bolt" paint scheme. Locomotive #217, an ex-Virginia Railway Express locomotive, has been rebuilt as an F40PH-3 and repainted into the "lightning bolt" paint scheme.
EMD F40PHM-2 185- 187, 189– 191, 193, 195-199,201–203,206-214 1991–1992 BNSF, RI and Southwest Service. All to be converted to F40PHM-3 status. 194 was the first F40PHM-2 to be repainted and rebuilt. The F40PHM-2s are the last F40PH series locomotives built by EMD. Number 205 was wrecked in a CSX Derailment on March 8, 2018 and was scrapped on site.
EMD F40PHM-3 188, 192, 194, 200 1991 BNSF Rebuilt from F40PHM-2 beginning in 2017
MPI MP36PH-3S 401–427 2003–2004 RI, Milwaukee North, Milwaukee West and North Central Service. To be converted to MP36PH-3C. As of late March 2019, 401, 405-414, 416-420, and 422-426 have been converted to MP36PH-3C status. 425 painted in Rock Island paint scheme and named "Don Orseno" in December 2017. 405 converted and painted in Milwaukee Road paint scheme in January 2019.
EMD F40C-T3 611, 614 1974 Retired; operated on the Milwaukee Districts while in service 611 and 614 were retired in 2003 and 2004. In January 2005, they were brought back into service while several then-new MP36PH-3S locomotives were out of service with software issues. Due to the F40PH rebuild program, 611 returned to service in March 2009, and 614 returned to service in April 2009; both locomotives remained in service until mid-2012. Currently, 611 and 614 are sitting at Western Avenue with no plans for further service.
EMD F7 305, 308 1949 All Diesel Routes Retired, sold to the Illinois Railway Museum. 305 has been restored as Chicago and North Western 411, while 308 is still painted in Metra colors and sees very limited operation.
EMD E8 507-510, 512-522 1950–1953 CNW Routes Retired

508, 515, 516, and 518 now owned by IPH.

519 privately owned. Renumbered to FEC 97.

522 owned by LWV and renumbered 101.

EMD E9 511 1955 CNW Routes Retired. Owned by UP and cosmetically restored to original number of UP 949.
EMD F40C 600–610, 612, 613 1974 Milwaukee Districts Retired

610 resides at NRE in Dixmoor, IL.

Coach fleet

Aurora (Metra)-6
A Nippon Sharyo gallery car, built in the early 2000s
Numbers Type Heritage Year Built Builder Disposition
740–820, 7100-7121 Coach Burlington 1950–1973, 1977-1978 Budd Operating

Some sold to MItrain in Michigan

6001–6194 Coach Metra 2002–2005 Nippon Sharyo Operating
7200–7382 Coach Milwaukee Road 1961–1980 Budd Operating
7400–7497 Coach Metra 1996–1998 Amerail Operating

Rebuilt, 2012

8200–8238 Coach/Cab Milwaukee Road 1961–1974 Budd Operating
8239–8275 Coach/Cab RTA 1978–1980 Budd Operating

Some have been converted to coaches.

8400–8478 Coach/Cab Metra 1994–1998 Morrison-Knudsen/Amerail Operating

Mainly assigned on the UP lines.

8501–8608 Coach/Cab Metra 2002–2005 Nippon Sharyo Operating
7700–7866 Coach Chicago and North Western 1960–1970 Pullman Operating

Five have been purchased back due to money problems.

7600–7613 Coach Chicago and North Western 1955 St. Louis Retired two preserved in the Illinois Railway Museum
7650–7681 Coach Chicago and North Western 1956 Pullman Retired one preserved in Illinois Railway Museum as a cab coach
7867–7871 Coach Rock Island 1970 St. Louis Retired
7880 Coach (Former Parlor) Chicago and North Western 1958 Pullman Retired
7881–7885 Coach Rock Island 1970 Pullman Retired
7900–7901 Club Car Chicago and North Western 1955 St. Louis Retired
8700–8763 Coach/Cab Chicago and North Western 1960–1968 Pullman Retired

Privately owned club coaches

Numbers Type Heritage Year Built Builder Disposition
553 Private railroad car Chicago and North Western 1949 ACF Operating
555 Private railroad car Chicago and North Western 1949 ACF Retired

Metra electric fleet

Metra's electric units are also known as Highliners.

Numbers Type Heritage Year Built Builder Status
1201–1226 MU Coach Metra 2005 Nippon Sharyo Operating
1227–1238 MU Coach Metra 2012 Sumitomo Group[67] Operating
1239–1279 MU Coach Metra 2013 Sumitomo Group Operating
1280-1386 MU Coach Metra 2014-2016 Sumitomo Group Operating
1501–1630 MU Coach Illinois Central 1971–1972 St. Louis Retired
1631–1666 MU Coach Illinois Central 1978–1979 Bombardier Retired

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Frequently Asked Questions - Where do Metra trains run?". Metra. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Metra Passenger Operations" (PDF). Metra. October 14, 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 27, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-05-21. Retrieved 2015-04-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Pyke, Marni (August 16, 2017). "Metra picks James Derwinski as new chief". Daily Herald. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  5. ^ Public Transportation Ridership Report, Fourth Quarter 2013. Commuter Rail (PDF) (Report). American Public Transportation Association (APTA). February 26, 2014. pp. 5–6. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-03. Retrieved 2015-05-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Cubs victory celebration sets new record for Metra | Metra". Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  8. ^ a b "Railroads". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. January 23, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  9. ^ "Chicago Commuter Rail Collection". Special Collection Finding Aids. University of Illinois at Chicago. August 17, 2006. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
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Further reading

External links

Route map:

Aurora Transportation Center

The Aurora Transportation Center is a station on Metra's BNSF Railway Line in Aurora, Illinois. The station is 37.1 miles (59.7 km) from Union Station, the east end of the line. In Metra's zone-based fare system, Aurora is in zone H. There is a staffed station building. Just north of the station is the Aurora Hill Yard, a large coach yard used to store the Metra trains on the BNSF Line.

Aurora is the west end of the BNSF Railway Line and is served by numerous Pace bus routes. It served as a Greyhound bus stop until September 7, 2011. Amtrak trains do not stop here; the Fox Valley is served by Amtrak from the Naperville station. There has been speculation the line will be extended to the Plano Amtrak station.

The station replaced the former Aurora Train Station, at the corners of South Broadway and Washington Street (see picture below). That station was smaller with considerably less parking area, but Amtrak trains as well as Metra trains stopped here. The station opened in the early 1900s and closed in the mid-1980s. The building was torn down in April 2013.

Aurora is a stub-track terminal, which means the Metra tracks stop here. Amtrak and BNSF freights use the two tracks east of the station.

BNSF Railway (Metra)

The BNSF Railway Line is a Metra commuter rail line operated by the eponymous freight railroad in Chicago and its western suburbs. In 2010, the BNSF Railway Line continued to have the highest weekday ridership (average 64,600) of the 11 Metra lines. While Metra does not refer to its lines by particular colors, the BNSF line's color on Metra timetables is "Cascade Green," a nod to the paint of the Burlington Northern Railroad. In July 2017, the public timetable (published October 9, 2016) showed 47 trains leaving Chicago each weekday, of which 31 run to Aurora. Of the 16 trains that do not reach Aurora, 5 terminate at Route 59, 1 at Naperville, 1 at Downers Grove-Main St., 5 at Fairview Avenue, 3 at Westmont, and 1 at Brookfield. The public timetable (published October 9, 2016) also showed 47 trains arriving in Chicago each weekday, of which 29 start in Aurora. Of the 18 trains that do not start in Aurora, 6 start at Lisle, 1 at Downers Grove-Main St., 7 at Fairview Avenue, 1 at Highlands, and 3 at Brookfield.

The east end is Union Station in downtown Chicago. The line traverses Chicago and its western and far western suburbs to Aurora. BNSF Railway operates it under a "purchase of service agreement" with Metra, inherited from Burlington Northern. While Metra owns all rolling stock, the management and crews are BNSF employees. BNSF controls the right-of-way on the line and handles dispatching from corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. The June 2007 timetable shows a 70 mph maximum allowed speed for passenger trains.

Metra has studied the feasibility of extending the line beyond Aurora, possibly as far as Plano, Illinois.

Chicago Union Station

Chicago Union Station is a major railroad station that opened in 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, replacing an earlier station built in 1881. It is the only remaining intercity rail terminal in Chicago, and is the city's primary terminal for commuter trains. The station stands on the west side of the Chicago River between West Adams Street and West Jackson Boulevard, just outside the Chicago Loop. Including approach and storage tracks, it covers about nine and a half city blocks — mostly underground, buried beneath streets and skyscrapers. The station serves as Amtrak's flagship station in the Midwest, and is also the downtown terminus for six Metra commuter lines.

Chicago Union Station is the fourth-busiest rail terminal in the United States, after Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station and Jamaica station in New York City. It is Amtrak's overall fourth-busiest station, and the busiest outside of its Northeast Corridor. It handles about 140,000 passengers on an average weekday (130,000 Metra riders and 10,000 Amtrak riders) and is one of Chicago's most iconic structures, reflecting the city's strong architectural heritage and historic achievements. It has Bedford limestone Beaux-Arts facades, massive Corinthian columns, marble floors, and a Great Hall, all highlighted by brass lamps. In 2011, its lighting system was replaced with more energy-efficient light bulbs and motion sensors, reducing the station's annual carbon emissions by 4 million tons. Custom steel lighting covers were added to top these safety/light towers, helping them blend in with the overall neoclassical style of the station.Chicago Union Station was designated as one of America's "Great Places" in 2012 by the American Planning Association (APA). The program recognized the station as a "Great Public Space" for promoting social activity and reflecting local culture and history. In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, Union Station was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois).

Heritage Corridor

The Heritage Corridor (HC) is a Metra commuter rail line in Chicago, Illinois, and its suburbs. While Metra does not refer to its lines by colors, the Heritage Corridor appears on Metra timetables as "Alton Maroon," after the Alton Railroad, which ran trains on this route. The name Heritage Corridor refers to the Illinois and Michigan Canal Heritage Corridor. Established in 1984, it runs parallel to the line.The Heritage Corridor runs during weekday rush hours only in the peak direction (to Chicago in AM rush, to Joliet in PM rush). The Heritage Corridor Line takes less than 1 hour to reach Joliet, significantly faster than the Rock Island District Line which also serves Joliet.

A fourth outbound train was added on March 14, 2016. Now seven trains run on the Heritage Corridor, three of them inbound, four outbound. All trains run through to (and start at) Joliet.

Joliet Transportation Center

The Joliet Transportation Center is a multimodal mass transit center linking passenger bus routes, Metra commuter trains, and Amtrak passenger trains in the city of Joliet, Illinois. It has replaced Joliet Union Station as the commuter and passenger train station serving Joliet. Union Station ceased to provide train service in September 2014, and groundbreaking for the new station took place late in 2016, with construction beginning shortly afterward. After several delays, the station officially opened to Amtrak and Metra traffic on April 11, 2018.

LaSalle Street Station

LaSalle Street Station is a commuter rail terminal at 414 South LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago. It was a major intercity rail terminal for the New York Central Railroad until 1968, and for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad until 1978, but now serves only Metra's Rock Island District. The present structure became the fifth station on the site when its predecessor was demolished in 1981 and replaced by the new station and the One Financial Place (now FOUR40) tower for the Chicago Stock Exchange. The Chicago Board of Trade Building, Willis Tower and Harold Washington Library are nearby.

Metra Electric District

The Metra Electric District is an electrified commuter rail line owned and operated by Metra which connects Millennium Station (formerly Randolph Street Station), in downtown Chicago, with the city's southern suburbs. As of 2014, it is the second busiest of Metra's 11 lines, after the BNSF, with nearly 9.5 million annual riders. While Metra does not explicitly refer to any of its lines by color, the timetable accents for the Metra Electric District are printed in bright "Panama orange" to reflect the line's origins with the Illinois Central Railroad (IC) and its Panama Limited passenger train. It is the only Metra line running entirely on dedicated passenger tracks, with no freight trains operating anywhere along the route. Its suburban operations line is the shortest on Metra's system, only running to fare zone G. If all the branches were combined, they would reach to zone J. It is also the only line with two downtown stations. During rush hours some trains do not reach Van Buren Street or Millennium Station.

It is the only Metra line powered by overhead catenary, and the only one with three branches. Trains operate on 1500 volts direct current, and all stations have high-level platforms. Its main line north of Kensington is shared by NICTD's South Shore Line, an electric interurban line through northern Indiana to South Bend. Per a longstanding non-compete agreement, South Shore trains stopping at stations shared with the Electric District only stop to pick up passengers eastbound and discharge them westbound.

It is the only Metra line with significant off-peak and Saturday service. In total, 92 trains depart Millennium Station according to the Monday-Saturday public timetable. Of these, 39 run on the main line. Of these, 29 reach University Park, with 5 terminating at Flossmoor and 5 terminating at Harvey. The stretch of the line from Millennium Station to 55th-56th-57th Street is the most heavily traveled section on the entire Metra system. Suburban operations along the line are the most frequent in the entire Metra system. The Metra Electric District also has the best on-time performance of all Metra lines, averaging only one late train a month in 2014.

Millennium Station

Millennium Station (formerly Randolph Street terminal; sometimes called Randolph Street station or Randolph/South Water Street station) is a major commuter rail terminal in downtown Chicago that serves the Metra Electric District to University Park, Blue Island, and South Chicago; and the South Shore Line to Gary and South Bend, Indiana. Located under Millennium Park, the terminal was established in the 1800s by the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). It was rebuilt in the early 21st century and is now owned by the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (Metra). Not counting commuters on the South Shore Line, over 18,000 people board Metra trains at Millennium Station each day. During peak periods, trains leave the terminal as frequently as twice a minute. It is the third-busiest train station in Chicago.

Milwaukee District / North Line

The Milwaukee District / North Line (MD-N) is a Metra commuter rail line in Chicago, Illinois, and its northern suburbs. Metra does not refer to any of its lines by color, but the timetable accents for the Milwaukee District / North line are pale "Hiawatha Orange," honoring the Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha passenger trains. The line utilizes the Canadian Pacific Railway's C&M Subdivision. From Rondout to Fox Lake, the line is single tracked.

Milwaukee District / West Line

The Milwaukee District / West Line (MD-W) is a Metra commuter rail line in Chicago, Illinois, and the western suburbs. (Metra does not refer to any of its lines by a particular color, but the timetable accents for the Milwaukee District/West line are dark "Arrow Yellow," honoring the Milwaukee Road's Arrow passenger train.). Trains are dispatched from CP's American headquarters in Minneapolis.

It runs from Union Station in downtown Chicago through the western suburbs to Elgin, Illinois. In April 2013 the public timetable shows 29 trains leaving Chicago each weekday, of which 22 run to Big Timber Road. Of the 7 trains that do not run through to Big Timber Road, 3 terminate at Elgin, 2 at Franklin Park, 1 at Bartlett, and 1 at National Street. All weekend trains terminate at Elgin; Big Timber Road does not have weekend service.

A new station at Grand Avenue and Cicero Avenue opened on December 11, 2006. It replaced stations in the Hermosa and Cragin neighborhoods.Metra has long range plans to eventually extend the line to Huntley and Marengo, Illinois, and, in the long term, out to Rockford. Another proposal recommends extending the line to Pingree Grove and Hampshire, Illinois on the Milwaukee Road's own tracks.

The line runs on the Canadian Pacific Railway Elgin Subdivision (Ex-Milwaukee Road line to Omaha).

North Central Service

The North Central Service (NCS) is a Metra commuter rail line running from Union Station in downtown Chicago through northwestern and far northern suburbs to Antioch, Illinois. In June 2018, the public timetable shows 10 weekday departures from Chicago.

Between Union Station and River Grove stations the North Central Service shares tracks with the Milwaukee District/West Line, but does not stop at any of the intermediate stations used by the MD-W between Western Avenue and River Grove. About a mile west of River Grove, this route turns north at a junction known as tower B-12. The rest of the route operates on track owned and dispatched by the Canadian National Railway ("CN"). A single daily inbound train, #120, makes all stops along the North Central Service from Antioch to Washington Street, then switches to the Milwaukee District/North Line's tracks at a diamond in Grayslake, makes stops at Libertyville and Lake Forest, and then runs express to Union Station.

The CN assumed ownership of this route on September 7, 2001 when it absorbed the Wisconsin Central Railroad ("WC"). The WC operated this route after it was purchased from the Soo Line Railroad in April 1987. Like most routes, Metra provides its own crews for this service and operates under a trackage rights agreement with the CN.

Service began August 19, 1996. As of 2006, this is the only new line in the Metra system since its formation. Prior to the start of NCS, the last passenger service on this route ended in 1965, when the Soo Line discontinued the overnight Chicago-Duluth Laker.

The North Central Service serves O'Hare International Airport, but a limited number of trains.

The North Central Service, the Heritage Corridor, and SouthWest Service are the only Metra lines that are fully ADA-accessible.

No tickets are sold at any North Central Service stations outside Chicago.

Ogilvie Transportation Center

The Richard B. Ogilvie Transportation Center is a commuter rail terminal in downtown Chicago, Illinois. It is the terminus for the three commuter rail lines of Metra's Union Pacific District to Chicago's northern and western suburbs, which approach the terminal elevated above street level. It occupies the lower floors of the 500 West Madison Street building. The building occupies two square city blocks, bounded by Randolph Street and Madison Street to the north and south and by Canal Street and Clinton Street to the east and west. It is the second busiest rail station in Chicago, after nearby Chicago Union Station, and fifth-busiest in the United States.

Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark

Rimrock Auto Arena, colloquially known as The Metra, is a multi-purpose arena located at MetraPark, the fairgrounds of Billings, Montana, USA. The arena has capacity for an audience of 12,000. The arena hosts a variety of local sporting, musical, and other events. It has also hosted professional sporting competitions. In 2005, MetraPark Arena marked its 30th anniversary. The arena was renovated in 2010 and 2011 at a cost of $27 million.

Rock Island District

The Rock Island District (RI) is a Metra commuter rail line from Chicago, Illinois, southwest to Joliet. Metra does not refer to its lines by color, but the timetable accents for the Rock Island District line are "Rocket Red". This refers to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad's Rocket passenger trains.

SouthWest Service

The Southwest Service (SWS) is a Metra commuter rail line, running southwest from Union Station in downtown Chicago, Illinois, to Manhattan, Illinois. Metra does not refer to its lines by color, but the timetable accents for the SouthWest Service line are "Banner Blue," for the Wabash Railroad's Banner Blue passenger train. The trackage is owned by Metra north of a junction with the Belt Railway of Chicago at Loomis Boulevard, and is leased from Norfolk Southern Railway south of the junction (NS has trackage rights over Metra's portion).

South Shore Line

The South Shore Line (reporting mark NICD) is an electrically powered interurban commuter rail line operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) between Millennium Station in downtown Chicago and the South Bend International Airport in South Bend, Indiana, United States. The name refers to both the physical line and the service operated over that route. The line was built in 1901–08 by predecessors of the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad, which continues to operate freight service. Passenger operation was assumed by the NICTD in 1989.

Transportation in Chicago

Chicago, Illinois is the third-largest city in the United States and a major transportation hub for the Midwest. The city is served by two major airports, and is the main freight rail hub of North America.

Surface transportation networks and public ways within the city are the responsibility of the Chicago Department of Transportation. Mass transit in much of the Chicago metropolitan area is managed through the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which was installed by referendum in 1974. The RTA provides transportation services through the funding of three subordinate agencies: the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace. Operation of the city's airports is the responsibility of the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Union Pacific / North Line

The Union Pacific / North Line (UP-N) is a Metra line in the Chicago metropolitan area. It runs between Ogilvie Transportation Center and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Although Metra owns the rolling stock, the trains are operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. This line was previously operated by the Chicago & North Western Railway before its merger with Union Pacific, and was called the Chicago and North Western Milwaukee Division and then the Chicago & North Western/North Line before the C&NW was absorbed by Union Pacific in April, 1995.

Metra does not refer to its lines by particular colors, but the timetable accents for the Union Pacific/North line are dark "Flambeau Green," a nod to the C&NW's Flambeau 400 passenger train.)

The current timetable has 35 weekday trains leaving Chicago, 17 of which terminate at Waukegan, 9 at Kenosha, 3 at Highland Park, 5 at Winnetka, 1 at North Chicago.

Union Pacific / West Line

The Union Pacific West Line (UP-W) is a Metra commuter rail line operated by Union Pacific Railroad in Chicago, Illinois and its western suburbs. Metra does not refer to its lines by particular colors, but the timetable accents for the Union Pacific/West line are "Kate Shelley Rose" pink, honoring an Iowa woman who saved a Chicago & North Western Railway train from disaster in 1881. In April 2013 the public timetable shows 30 trains leaving Chicago each weekday, of which 22 run to Elburn. Of the 8 trains on weekdays that do not run through to Elburn, 4 terminate at Elmhurst, 2 at Geneva, 1 at West Chicago, and 1 at La Fox. All weekend trains run through to Elburn. Until 2006, all Metra trains on this line terminated at Geneva. The line runs as part of the Union Pacific Railroad's Geneva Subdivision (ex-C&NW line to Clinton, Iowa.)

The line runs from the Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago through the western suburbs to Elburn. This is the oldest railway route in Chicago, the route of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad along Kinzie street.

Until the late 1940s the line had a branch to Freeport, Illinois. It diverged from the main line at West Chicago and had stations at Elgin, Marengo, Belvidere, Rockford, Freeport, and other communities.

System map

Schematic of Metra's routes, as well as the South Shore Line. This schematic is not to scale.

Stations and terminals
Rolling stock
Accidents and incidents
See also
Rapid transit
Commuter rail
People mover
Currently operating commuter rail systems in the United States
Common carriers
Passenger carriers
Private carriers
Heritage railroads

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