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Metra sets ridership record, plans station renovation


Chicago’s Metra commuter rail agency, which last year logged record ridership, providing more than 82.3 million passenger trips, Feb. 15 announced plans to renovate the downtown terminal for its Electric District, Randolph Street Station.

The station, which is located underground near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, had been stripped of its restrooms, snackshops and other vendors since the city began rebuilding the street overhead.

Features of the planned $15 million renovation include better lighting, larger concourses, convenient ticket facilities and restrooms, and improved train information signs. And, for the first time, station waiting areas will be air-conditioned.

Teng and Associates of Chicago served as project engineer and designed the facility, as well as heating, cooling and electrical systems. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill will handle architectural finishes. Construction is scheduled to take place in four phases, concluding in 2004.

More than 45,000 passengers ride the Electric District line each weekday; 15,000 commuters pass through the Randolph Street Station.

And those numbers could rise, too, if Metra’s six-year ridership trend continues. The agency’s ridership grew by 500,000 passenger trips last year, according to data released Feb. 15.

The total ridership represents a 40 percent gain since 1983, the year before Metra took over operations, and the most commuter rail trips taken in one year during the past 33 years for which ridership statistics are available.

Officials attribute the increase to growing suburbs and redeveloping Chicago neighborhoods, expanded parking at train stations, a relatively stable job market in Chicago’s central business district, and success of marketing campaign aimed at niche riders, such as those who purchase weekend tickets. (Weekend ticket sales were up 2.4 percent last year compared with 2000.)

Of Metra’s 12 lines, the Heritage Corridor to Joliet registered the strongest individual-line growth, increasing by 26 percent its passenger trips. SouthWest Service ridership grew 4 percent; Union Pacific North Line to Kenosha, Wis., 3 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/20/2002