Local News

Metra to increase train service along Northwest line serving Crystal Lake, Woodstock

Metra ridership has been ‘steadily rising’ from pandemic lows since January after plateauing around 10% of regular levels

With ridership “steadily rising” from pandemic lows, Metra will be adding service to all of its lines starting in July, the commuter train line said in a news release Wednesday.

The Union Pacific Northwest line, which runs from Chicago through Fox River Grove, Cary and Crystal Lake’s two stations before branching off with one track heading to McHenry and the other continuing to Woodstock and Harvard, will see enhanced rush-hour service in the coming weeks.

Schedules still are to come, according to a news release.

Metra ridership in a low of 3% of normal ridership in April 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and remained around 10% for much of the rest of 2020, according to the release. However, ridership has been climbing since January and this week reached 17% of pre-pandemic levels.

With more growth expected, the train service is piloting new schedules starting in July that instead of prioritizing peak rush-hour service, take a “more balanced approach” that spreads out the service to offer better off-peak options, Metra said in the release.

The Union Pacific Northwest line, which runs from Chicago through Fox River Grove, Cary and Crystal Lake’s two stations before branching off with one track heading to McHenry and the other continuing to Woodstock and Harvard, is not among the four routes receiving the new schedule.

Those routes are Union Pacific North, which terminates in Kenosha; BNSF Railway, which ends in Aurora; Metra Electric, which runs south to University Park; and the Rock Island line, which ends in Joliet, according to the release. More routes may follow.

“We want to demonstrate that My Metra is about taking care of our riders. With this pilot program, we are testing schedules that have changed with our riders changing needs. We think flexibility is the new currency in a post-pandemic economy,” Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski said in the release. “We look forward to our riders’ return, and we will welcome them with clean, safe trains and schedules that meet their needs.”