Archive for the ‘METRA’ Category


A Metra train moves along the Union Pacific Northwest Line Oct. 29, 2019, in Lake Barrington. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

Anticipating the return of more weekday commuters, Metra is significantly boosting service on its Union Pacific Northwest line and tweaking the Union Pacific North schedule.

Metra plans to add 21 trains per weekday to the 45 currently operating on the Northwest Line, which runs from Ogilvie Transportation Center to McHenry and Harvard. That will bring the total number of weekday trains to one more than pre-pandemic levels, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said.

It’s the latest line that will see increased service, after Metra made steep cuts at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as ridership on the commuter rail service plummeted. Metra also recently added trains to the BNSF Line that runs between Chicago Union Station and Aurora.

Ridership remains low, as workers have returned to offices in fits and starts and often have new work and commute patterns. On Wednesday, ridership across all 11 Metra lines was 34.8% of April 2019 levels, Gillis said.

On the Union Pacific Northwest Line, trips were about 27% of pre-pandemic levels, he said.

Metra has said it planned to restore service even before ridership fully returned to ensure there is space for riders, Gillis said.

More here.

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Barrington Metra

Metra plans to start installing new ticket vending machines across the system next year, a transition that may have a significant impact on future fare collection.

Board directors last week approved a $70 million contract with California-based VenTek International to purchase and maintain 650 ticket vending machines.

The first phase of the redo involves 300 machines. Beginning in mid-2022, workers will swap out older units at downtown stations and busy Metra Electric stops. At 57 manned stations, “we would go to vending machines only, including downtown stations, where we would have customer service staff available” to assist riders, spokesman Michael Gillis said.

Metra will not lay off ticket agents. “Some positions will be cut through attrition, and others will be reassigned to customer service roles,” Gillis said.

In addition, 75 machines will be located at strategic stations to pilot a “proof-of-payment” fare system.

In the second phase, 350 more machines will be installed across the system so all 242 train stations will have a vending machine.

Most of Metra fares — nearly 69% — are handled through the Ventra app.

More here.

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Cary Metra

A Chicago-bound Metra train pulls into the Cary Metra station after a dedication ceremony for the station on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Ryan Rayburn)

The village of Cary is on track to buy the Union Pacific commuter station and surrounding property in its downtown after its Village Board approved an agreement with Metra facilitating the sale earlier this month, Village Administrator Jake Rife said Thursday.

The Nov. 2 approval came after Union Pacific notified Metra in September that it had entered into an agreement with an unnamed developer to sell some or all of its 41 train station properties. In a letter Metra sent to affected municipalities, the Chicago region commuter rail system said these stations would be sold for about $50.9 million in total.

However, Metra said, the developer still could choose not to buy individual stations.

Metra has right of first refusal to buy the train station properties from Union Pacific, but it doesn’t want them, as previously reported by the Northwest Herald. Instead, Metra offered to buy train station properties from Union Pacific on municipalities’ behalf and transfer the property title to the villages and cities.

For Cary, the total purchase price of the property at 100 West Main St. would be $845,300, with the village putting an initial earnest deposit amount of $10,000 down ahead of a feasibility review.

During this yearlong review period, Cary officials could choose not buy the property and would receive a refund of the $10,000.

Read more here.

Related :Crystal Lake to buy downtown train station property through Metra deal (Will Barrington/BACOG?)

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CL Purchase

Commuters exit a westbound Metra train from the Chicago direction on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Crystal Lake. (Matthew Apgar – mapgar@shawmedia)

The Crystal Lake City Council approved Tuesday the purchase of the 1.8-acre downtown train station and its surrounding property through an intergovernmental agreement with Metra, the result of the Union Pacific’s intention to sell this and other commuter stations on the line.

Union Pacific notified Metra that it had entered into an agreement with an unnamed developer to sell some or all of the 41 train station properties for about $50.9 million, Metra said in a letter to affected municipalities.

Metra has the right of first refusal to purchase the property but doesn’t want it, Crystal Lake city staff said, so instead, the Chicago region commuter rail system offered to buy the train station from Union Pacific on the city’s behalf and transfer the property title to the city of Crystal Lake.

The city of Crystal Lake decided to buy the property because “it’s an important part of the downtown” and city staff recommended it as a good opportunity, Assistant City Manager Eric Helm said.

“The location and the asking price for the property were all very attractive,” Helm said.

No plans are in the works for any changes to the property, Helm said. Crystal Lake, which has a lease with Union Pacific, currently handles minor maintenance items for the station. Helm doesn’t see this changing with the city’s purchase.

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Union Pacific, which owns the parcel, plans on selling it, but Metra has first right of refusal

CL Metra

The Crystal Lake City Council will vote Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, on whether to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Metra to purchase the downtown train station property. (Crystal Lake City Council records)

The Crystal Lake City Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether it wants to enter into an agreement with Metra to buy property around the downtown train station property that Union Pacific is looking to sell.

Although Metra has the first refusal to purchase the property, it does not want to, according to city staff. The Chicago region commuter rail system has offered to buy the 1.8-acre parcel from Union Pacific on the city’s behalf and transfer the property title to Crystal Lake through an intergovernmental agreement.

Cities like Crystal Lake impacted by Union Pacific’s sale plans have until Nov. 12 to approve agreements with Metra, Metra’s director of real estate and contract management, Anthony Ognibene, said in a letter to municipalities.

This offer was given to other municipalities along Union Pacific’s Northwest line as well.

Union Pacific notified Metra that it had entered into a master agreement with an unnamed developer to sell some or all of the 41 train station properties for about $50.9 million, Metra said in the letter. The developer can still choose not to purchase individual stations, according to the letter.

McHenry County stations affected include Crystal Lake’s downtown station as well as the ones in Cary, Woodstock, Harvard, McHenry and Fox River Grove.

Read more here.

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Village and city officials in McHenry County are evaluating their options after being notified that the Union Pacific Railroad is looking to sell the land surrounding a number of its northern Illinois commuter stations.

In a letter to municipal officials, Metra said Union Pacific sent the commuter railway a notice that it had entered into a master agreement with an unnamed developer to sell some or all of the 41 train station properties for about $50.9 million.

“While it reflects a master contract for 41 stations, the notice is clear that the developer may elect to not purchase individual stations,” Metra said in the letter.

McHenry County stations that could be affected are in Crystal Lake, Cary, Woodstock, Harvard and McHenry and Fox River Grove.

Metra is willing to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with municipalities to purchase the station and transfer ownership back to the town, Anthony Ognibene, director of real estate and contract management for Metra, said in the letter. The municipality would have to finance the cost of the acquisition.

“Please be aware that time is critical,” Ognibene wrote, noting that municipalities would need to enter into the intergovernmental agreement before Nov. 12.

Right now, Crystal Lake is evaluating the information it received from Metra and weighing the city’s options, Crystal Lake Assistant City Manager Eric Helm said.

“We recently received the information,” Helm said.

Read more here.

Related:Mount Prospect train station, dozens more could be sold

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Metra’s proposing a $900 million budget for 2022 that would bring train service back to 2019 levels.

Metra’s $900 million proposed budget for 2022 is a balancing act as leaders lean on federal aid to bring service back to pre-COVID-19 levels on all lines in hopes of reclaiming the absent passengers who have decimated revenues.

The tentative budget, approved for release by Metra directors Wednesday, increases spending by 12.5% from the $800 million 2021 fiscal plan. In comparison, Metra’s original budget for 2020 was $827.4 million, although projections changed because of the pandemic, and the 2019 budget was $822 million.

There will be no fare increases, officials said.

The $100 million extra will be used to fill vacant jobs, offset inflation, and run more trains, which are at about 80% of 2019 numbers. The railroad had cut multiple trains as the pandemic surged in spring 2020.

The agency intends to reduce the time a 10-ride pass is valid from one year after date of purchase to 90 days, effective Feb. 1, 2022. Similarly, one-way tickets will expire in 14 days instead of 90 days.

Read more here.

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Mount Prospect officials are discussing what it might mean for the village of Union Pacific sells land at its downtown train station for redevelopment.

Mount Prospect officials are discussing the possible redevelopment of land surrounding the downtown Metra train station property, amid reports Union Pacific is looking to sell the land there and at dozens of other suburban commuter stations.

The area in Mount Prospect includes the parking lots along Northwest Highway from southeast of Maple Street to northwest of Route 83.

Union Pacific has been trying to sell dozens of train station properties to a developer, according to village documents, which could mean millions of dollars of revenue for the railroad company. Among the other 40 sites are Arlington Heights, Arlington Park, Des Plaines, Palatine, Barrington, Fox River Grove, Cary, Crystal Lake, Harvard, McHenry, Villa Park, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Winfield, West Chicago and Elburn.

Assistant Mount Prospect Village Manager Nellie Beckner said village staff is meeting about the possible sale this week.

“Obviously, we would love to have control over the parking lots in the train station, because that’s a key element of our downtown,” she said.

The latest communication from Metra to the village was sent on Sept. 29. It indicated that on Sept. 23, UP informed Metra that the company had entered into an agreement to sell the property at 41 stations for approximately $50.9 million.

Read more here.

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Canadian National “is continuing to evaluate all options available to us,” said Jonathan Doorley, a spokesman for Canadian National.

Kansas City Southern said on Sunday that it had deemed an offer from Canadian Pacific superior to a bid from Canadian National, in the latest turn in a monthslong battle to become the first railroad to connect North America.

Canadian Pacific first put forward a roughly $29 billion bid for Kansas City Southern in March, before being topped by a $33.7 billion offer from its rival, Canadian National, in April. But the Canadian National deal hit a key regulatory challenge this month, sending Kansas City back to talks with Canadian Pacific. The talks proved fruitful.

The crown jewel in the deal is Mexico, as the railroads look to capitalize on trade flows across North America on the heels of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement signed into law last year.

Closing a deal could take time. It must be approved by shareholders of both companies, as well as approved by Mexican authorities and the Surface Transportation Board, the U.S. regulatory board that oversees rail deals.

Kansas City Southern has notified Canadian National of its intention to terminate that deal, both companies said on Sunday. Canadian National has five days to make a better offer. If Kansas City opts for Canadian Pacific, Canadian National will receive $700 million in breakup fees, according to the terms of their deal.

Read more here.

Related: “Feds reject initial CN plan for merger with Kansas City railroad that’s drawn ire from some suburbs,” “Suburbs wary of proposed railway merger that could mean more freight trains,” and “Could railroad merger lead to more freight trains in the suburbs?

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An outbound Metra train travels past a memorial at Algonquin Road and Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove. At the same location on Oct. 25, 1995, inbound Metra train No. 624 crashed into a school bus, killing seven teenagers on their way to class at Cary-Grove High School and injuring the bus driver and 24 passengers. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times)

The dream that has visited Ford Dotson Jr. thousands of times always starts the same way.

It’s a crisp October morning. Beneath clear skies, leaves shimmer copper, gold and red.

It’s long before sunrise, and Dotson sets off from home. He’s happy anyway because there are no weekend shifts, no one bugging him to work holidays. He climbs into the cab of Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest Line train No. 624 heading to Chicago from Crystal Lake. At the end of the run, he’ll curl up on a cot for a few hours before making the return trip.

The 200-ton locomotive at the rear of the train pushes six passenger cars and the cab control car. It’s an express, and ahead the signals are green. So Dotson “jumps it up” to the maximum speed — 70 mph. He crosses the Fox River, which sparkles in the sunlight.

In the distance, he sees a school bus. It’s moving slowly across the tracks, but there’s no reason to panic. Dotson nudges the brake handle — just in case — and blows the train whistle: two long blasts, a short, another long.

But something is wrong. The rear of the bus remains on the tracks. Dotson pumps several short blasts on the airhorn. He keeps at it because the bus isn’t moving. As the train hurtles forward, he slams the brake handle all the way.

That’s the point in the dream when he always wakes up, shaking, just before the impact.

Twenty-five years ago Sunday, Ford Dotson Jr.’s train smashed into a school bus in Fox River Grove. It wasn’t any dream. Seven teenagers, all of them students at Cary-Grove High School, were killed: Jeffrey Clark, Stephanie Fulham, Susanna Guzman, Michael Hoffman, Joe Kalte, Shawn Robinson and Tiffany Schneider. The bus driver and 24 other passengers were injured.

Read more about a sad anniversary this Sunday in the Chicago Sun*Times here.

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