Metra Electric District

(Redirected from Metra Electric Line)

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 2018, it is the fifth busiest of Metra's 11 lines, after the BNSF, UP-NW, UP-N, and UP-W Lines with nearly 7.7 million annual riders.[3] 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.[4] Apart from the spots where its tracks run parallel to other main lines, it is the only Metra line running entirely on dedicated passenger tracks, with no freight trains operating anywhere on the actual route itself (the only exceptions perhaps being occasional work or repair trains). The line is the only one in the Metra system with more than one station in Downtown Chicago, and also has the highest number of stations (49) of any Metra line.

Metra Electric District
Metra Electric trains at University Park
LocaleChicago, Illinois, United States
Stations49 (total) (1 closed)
19 (to 93rd St)
29 (to Blue Island)
34 (2 under reconstruction) (to University Park)
TypeCommuter rail
Operator(s)Metra (Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Rail Corporation)
Daily ridership34,000 (Avg. Weekday 2014)[1]
Line length31.5 miles (50.7 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead line1,500 V DC
Route map
Map Metra Electric District highlighted in orange
Millennium Station South Shore Line
0.8 mi
1.3 km
Van Buren Street South Shore Line
1.4 mi
2.3 km
Museum Campus/11th Street South Shore Line
Central Station
18th Street Yard
2.2 mi
3.5 km
18th Street
2.7 mi
4.3 km
McCormick Place South Shore Line
I-55.svg I-55 (End)
3.2 mi
5.1 km
27th Street
31st Street
35th Street
39th Street
43rd Street
5.9 mi
9.5 km
47th Street (Kenwood)
50th Street
6.5 mi
10.5 km
51st–53rd Street (Hyde Park)
7.0 mi
11.3 km
55th–56th–57th Street South Shore Line
7.4 mi
11.9 km
59th Street/University of Chicago
7.9 mi
12.7 km
63rd Street South Shore Line
67th Street
South Chicago branch
East 71st Street
9.1 mi
14.6 km
Stony Island
9.7 mi
15.6 km
Bryn Mawr
South Exchange Avenue
10.3 mi
16.6 km
South Shore
10.9 mi
17.5 km
Windsor Park
11.5 mi
18.5 km
12.0 mi
19.3 km
83rd Street
12.5 mi
20.1 km
87th Street
91st Street (South Chicago)
13.2 mi
21.2 km
South Chicago (93rd Street)
70th Street
72nd Street
9.3 mi
15 km
75th Street (Grand Crossing)
10.0 mi
16.1 km
79th Street (Chatham)
(under reconstruction)
10.4 mi
16.7 km
83rd Street (Avalon Park)
10.9 mi
17.5 km
87th Street (Woodruff)
11.4 mi
18.3 km
91st Street (Chesterfield)
12.0 mi
19.3 km
95th Street/CSU
13.0 mi
20.9 km
103rd Street (Rosemoor)
13.5 mi
21.7 km
107th Street
14.0 mi
22.5 km
111th Street (Pullman)
South Shore Line
14.5 mi
23.3 km
Kensington/115th Street
Red (planned)
Left arrow to Howard
to 130th Right arrow
Blue Island branch
15.6 mi
25.1 km
State Street
16.0 mi
25.7 km
Stewart Ridge
16.7 mi
26.9 km
West Pullman
17.0 mi
27.4 km
Racine Avenue
17.9 mi
28.8 km
Ashland Avenue
18.4 mi
29.6 km
Burr Oak
RI to LaSalle Street
18.9 mi
30.4 km
Blue Island
RI to Joliet
Kensington Yard
130th Street
17.3 mi
27.8 km
18.2 mi
29.3 km
19.0 mi
30.6 km
147th Street (Sibley Boulevard)
Under reconstruction
20.0 mi
32.2 km
22.3 mi
35.9 km
Hazel Crest
22.8 mi
36.7 km
23.5 mi
37.8 km
Homewood Amtrak
24.9 mi
40.1 km
26.6 mi
42.8 km
Olympia Fields
27.6 mi
44.4 km
211th Street (Lincoln Highway)
28.2 mi
45.4 km
Richton Park Yard
29.3 mi
47.2 km
Richton Park
31.5 mi
50.7 km
University Park

Metra Electric
Rock Island District
other lines
Mileage source[2]

It is the only Metra line powered by overhead lines, the only line with high-level platforms, and the only line with three service branches. Trains operate on 1,500 V DC. The main line north of Kensington/115th Street is shared with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (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 pick up passengers heading eastbound (outbound from Chicago) and only discharge passengers heading westbound (inbound to the city).

As of May 2022, the 147th Street (Sibley Boulevard) station is closed for reconstruction until summer 2023, with passengers being encouraged to use Ivanhoe or Harvey stations as alternate options.

Service Edit

The Electric District has more frequent service than any other Metra line. As of August 2023, Metra operates 131 trains (64 inbound and 67 outbound) on the line on weekdays. On the main line, 27 inbound trains originate from University Park, four from Homewood, and three from Kensington/115th Street, while three outbound trains terminate at Kensington/115th Street, four at Homewood, and the remaining 26 at University Park. There are also 20 inbound and 22 outbound trains on the South Chicago (93rd Street) branch, as well as ten inbound and 12 outbound trains on the Blue Island branch (one outbound train to Blue Island, No. 245, originates from Kensington/115th Street, not Millennium Station).

On Saturdays, Metra operates 41 roundtrip trains on the line, including 21 on the main line to University Park, 16 trains on the South Chicago branch, and four on the Blue Island branch.

On Sunday and holidays, Metra operates 22 trains on the line, with 12 roundtrips operating on the main line to University Park and 10 trains operating on the South Chicago branch. Service on the Blue Island branch is suspended during these times.

The stretch of the line from Millennium Station to 55th-56th-57th Street is the most heavily traveled section on the entire Metra system. The Metra Electric District has the best on-time performance of all Metra lines, averaging only one late train a month in 2014.[5]

History Edit

Steam era Edit

The line was built by the Illinois Central Railroad, one of the first commuter services outside the major metropolitan areas of the northeastern United States. It opened on July 21, 1856 between the IC's then-downtown station, Great Central Station, (now Millennium Station) and Hyde Park. Part of the line was elevated for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Jackson Park.

The line predates the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, and ran on a trestle just offshore in Lake Michigan. After the fire, remains of buildings destroyed by the fire were dumped into the lake, creating landfill that forms the foundation of Grant Park, which the Metra Electric District runs through.

Two branches were added: from Brookdale southeast to South Chicago in the early 1880s, and from Kensington southwest to Blue Island in the early 1890s, both later electrified along with the main line.

When the IC moved its intercity operations to Central Station in 1893, it built Randolph Street Terminal on the former site of Great Central to handle its growing commuter operations.

Electrical IC era Edit

An Illinois Central train at Richton Park in 1968.

By the early 20th century the IC operated up to 300 steam trains each day. In 1919, the IC and the Chicago city government collaborated to build a berm from the far south suburb of Homewood into the city. They also dug a trench from the near south side into the city proper, eliminating all grade crossings on the main line except one just south of the Richton Park station. The University Park extension required the line to cross a very long private driveway. The South Chicago branch runs at grade, crossing many city streets.

The grade crossing elimination project was followed by electrification. The IC electrified the commuter tracks in 1926, from downtown to Matteson. In addition to the removal of all grade crossings, the tracks were separated from, and moved to the west side of, the two freight and inter-city tracks. At McCormick Place just south of downtown Chicago, the two non-electrified tracks to Central Station crossed over the new electric alignment. The electric tracks continued north to Randolph Street Terminal.

The "IC Electric" was once Chicago's busiest suburban railroad, and carried a great deal of traffic within the city as well as to suburban communities. The three lines carried 26 million passengers in 1927, the first full year of electrified operation. Ridership rose to 35 million in 1929, and reached an all-time peak of 47 million in 1946.

Service was extended 1.1 miles (1.8 km) southward from Matteson to Richton Park, a new station at the south end of the coach storage yard, in 1946.[6]

The main line had six tracks between Roosevelt Road (Central Station) and 53rd Street (reduced to four in 1962), four to 111th Street, then two. The South Chicago branch is double tracked, and the Blue Island branch has a single track with a passing siding at West Pullman.

1972 collision Edit

The Illinois Central Gulf commuter rail crash, the worst rail accident in Chicago history, occurred on October 30, 1972. A commuter train made up of new lightweight bi-level Highliner cars, inbound to Randolph Street Station during the morning rush hour, overshot the 27th Street platform and backed up into the station. The bi-level train had already tripped the signals to green for the next train, an older, heavy steel single-level express train. As the bi-level train was backing up at 11 miles per hour (18 km/h), it was struck by the single-level train at full speed. The single-level train telescoped the bi-level train, killing 45 passengers and injuring hundreds more, primarily in the bi-level train. A major contributing factor was that Illinois Central Gulf used a dark gray color scheme on the front ends of the Highliner fleet, which was very difficult to see on the cloudy morning of the accident. After the accident the ends of all of the ICG 1926 heavyweight still in use and Highliner MU fleet were partially painted with bright orange added for additional visibility.

RTA era Edit

Monroe Street, to the south of which (lower left) the Metra tracks emerge from the tunnel into Millennium Station.

In 1976 the Regional Transportation Authority signed a contract with Illinois Central Gulf to fund its commuter service. The next year an extension of 2.3 miles (3.7 km) was built to the current terminal at University Park (originally named Park Forest South). On May 1, 1987 Metra bought the line and its branches for $28 million ($72.1 million adjusted for inflation). The line is now operated by Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Rail Corporation, Metra's operating subsidiary. Two inter-city freight tracks retained by the ICG are now part of the Canadian National Railway, used by Amtrak's City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki trains.

From 1988 onward, Randolph Street Terminal was under near-perpetual construction. The construction of Millennium Park moved the station completely underground, and in 2005 it was renamed Millennium Station.

The Metra Electric is the only line on the Metra system in which all stations (except 18th and 47th Streets, both flag stops) have ticket vending machines. The machines originally sold magnetically encoded tickets which unlocked the turnstiles. People with paper tickets or weekend passes, on reduced fares or who had trouble with the vending machines had to use a blue or orange pal phone to contact an operator who would unlock the turnstiles. Complaints from passengers who missed their trains caused Metra to remove the turnstiles in November 2003.

The main line and South Chicago branch run daily, but the Blue Island Branch does not operate on Sundays or holidays. A unique feature of the Metra Electric schedule is the similarity of the weekday and Saturday timetables. Many express trains run throughout the day in both directions. On other Metra lines, express service operates exclusively during the morning and afternoon rush hours. It is the only Metra line where all trackage is used exclusively for commuter service. Freight trains and Amtrak trains run on a pair of adjacent tracks owned by the Canadian National Railroad.

Off-peak and Saturday service is frequent, while Sunday service operates hourly north of 63rd Street and every 2 hours south of 63rd.

On January 4, 2021, fares on the Metra Electric line, along with the Rock Island line, were cut in half for all passengers.[7][8]

Potential expansion or service alterations Edit

The proposed Gold Line, derived from the earlier and more extensive Gray Line plan[9] would have the Electric District operate more like a rapid transit line, by running trains more frequently (every ten minutes between 6am and midnight) with reduced-fare transfers to CTA buses and trains. Unlike the current service, which bypasses many stations to reach suburban stations more quickly, it would make all stops within the city. It would run from Millennium Station to South Chicago (93rd Street) at an estimated cost at $160 million.[10] Since the Gold Line was proposed, the idea of providing rapid transit service along Chicago's south lakefront has gained considerable support from neighborhoods along its route. Despite its popular support, officials from CTA and Metra have largely dismissed the plan, focusing on other expansion projects. In response to this and other concerns, in 2009 the RTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation authorized $450,000 for a "South Lakefront Study" that is anticipated to yield either one or two new transit projects that are eligible for Federal transit funding.[11]

An extension to Peotone, Illinois or the Proposed Chicago south suburban airport with a stop in Monee has been considered since the SouthWest Service was extended to Manhattan.[12][13][14]

On May 24, 2017, Metra announced new schedule proposals for the line. The new schedule will provide rapid service for the Hyde Park stations every 20 minutes on weekdays until 7 p.m. and every half-hour on Saturdays. The proposed schedule also calls for boosting service on the main line from 63rd Street to Kensington, from every two hours to every hour. However, the proposed schedule also calls for the elimination of lightly used Blue Island trains, including all Saturday service.[15]

After reviewing community feedback, Metra decided to keep four Saturday Blue Island trains and one late night trip to South Chicago. The new service went into effect September 11, 2017.[16]

Ridership Edit

Between 2014 and 2019, annual ridership declined 23% from 9.4 million to 7.3 million passengers.[17][18] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership dropped to 2,019,403 passengers in 2020 and to 1,836,723 in 2021.


Rolling stock Edit

Metra Electric District lines are in Panama Orange, South Shore in Dark Burgundy

The Metra Electric District uses second-generation bi-level Highliner multiple unit cars built by Nippon Sharyo. These will be supplemented by additional EMUs built at Nippon Sharyo's new Rochelle, Illinois facility opened in 2012.[19] In 2005, these began to replace the original Highliner fleet built by St. Louis Car Company and Bombardier in the 1970s.

On February 12, 2016, the original Highliners left on their last run in revenue service. Metra confirmed in a Facebook post that twenty-four cars are being sent to museums around the Midwestern United States, including the Illinois Railway Museum, while an unconfirmed source stated that some cars were sent to Mendota, Illinois to be scrapped.[20]

Numbers Type Year built Builder Status
1227-1387 Highliner II 2012–Present Nippon Sharyo In Service^
1201-1226 Highliner II 2005 Nippon Sharyo In Service^
1501-1630 Highliner 1971-1972 St. Louis Retired
1631-1666 Highliner 1978-1979 Bombardier Retired
1100-1229 EMU coach 1926 Pullman Retired
1230-1239 EMU coach 1928 Pullman Retired
1301-1320 EMU trailer 1921 Pullman Retired
1321-1345 EMU trailer 1924 Pullman Retired
1346-1430 EMU trailer 1926 Standard Steel Retired
1431-1440 EMU Trailer 1928 Pullman Retired

^1201-1226 are being leased to NICTD for use on the South Shore Line. All are being refurbished prior to being transferred over to the South Shore. ^To be renumbered

Stations Edit

Main branch Edit

County Zone Location Station Connections and notes
Cook A Chicago Millennium Station   NICTD: South Shore Line
  Chicago "L": Red (at Lake), Green Brown Orange Pink Purple (at Washington/​Wabash)
  CTA Bus: 3, 4, X4, 6, 19, 20, 26, 60, N66, 124, 143, 147, 148, 151, 157
  Pace Bus: 850, 851, 855
  ChicaGo Dash
Van Buren Street   NICTD: South Shore Line
  CTA Bus: 1, 3, 4, X4, 6, 7, J14, 26, 126, 130, 147, 148, 151
Museum Campus/11th Street   NICTD: South Shore Line
  Chicago "L": Red Green Orange (at Roosevelt)
  CTA Bus: 1, 3, 4, X4, 6, 12, 18, 130, 146
18th Street 
McCormick Place   NICTD: South Shore Line
  CTA Bus: 3 King Drive, 21 Cermak
27th Street    CTA Bus: 3 King Drive, 21 Cermak
31st Street Closed between 1960 and 1965
35th Street Closed between 1939 and 1957
39th Street (Oakland) Closed between 1939 and 1957
43rd Street Closed between 1960 and 1965
47th Street (Kenwood)   CTA Bus: 2 Hyde Park Express, 6 Jackson Park Express, 28 Stony Island, 47 47th
B 51st–53rd Street (Hyde Park)   CTA Bus: 2, 6, 15, 28, 171, 172
55th–56th–57th Street   NICTD: South Shore Line
  CTA Bus: 15 Jeffery Local, 28 Stony Island, 55 Garfield, 171 U. of Chicago/Hyde Park
59th Street/University of Chicago   CTA Bus: 2 Hyde Park Express, 6 Jackson Park Express, 15 Jeffery Local, 28 Stony Island
63rd Street   NICTD: South Shore Line
  CTA Bus: 63 63rd
67th Street Closed 1984[21] The platforms are still existent
72nd Street Closed between 1960 and 1965
75th Street (Grand Crossing)   CTA Bus: 30 South Chicago, 75 74th-75th
79th Street (Chatham)   CTA Bus: 79 79th
83rd Street (Avalon Park)
87th Street (Woodruff)   CTA Bus: 87 87th
C 91st Street (Chesterfield)
95th Street/Chicago State University   CTA Bus: 4 Cottage Grove, N5 South Shore, 95 95th, 100 Jeffery Manor Express, 115 Pullman/115th
103rd Street (Rosemoor)    CTA Bus: 4 Cottage Grove, 106 East 103rd, 115 Pullman/115th
107th Street    CTA Bus: 4 Cottage Grove, 115 Pullman/115th
111th Street (Pullman)   CTA Bus: 4 Cottage Grove, 115 Pullman/115th
Kensington/115th Street   CTA Bus: 4 Cottage Grove, 111A Pullman Shuttle, 115 Pullman/115th
130th Street (Wildwood) Closed between 1960 and 1965
D Riverdale Riverdale   Pace Bus: 348 Harvey–Riverdale–Blue Island
Harvey 147th Street (Sibley Boulevard) Temporarily closed until 2023 for renovations
Harvey   Pace Bus: 348, 349, 350, 352, 354, 356, 360, 361, 364, 890
E Hazel Crest Hazel Crest   Pace Bus: 356 Harvey–Homewood–Tinley Park
East Hazel Crest Calumet   Pace Bus: 356 Harvey–Homewood–Tinley Park
Homewood Homewood   Amtrak: City of New Orleans, Illini and Saluki
  Pace Bus: 356 Harvey–Homewood–Tinley Park, 359 Robbins–South Kedzie Avenue
Flossmoor Flossmoor
F Olympia Fields Olympia Fields
211th Street (Lincoln Highway)   Pace Bus: 357 Lincoln Highway
Matteson Matteson
Richton Park Richton Park
Will G University Park University Park   Pace Bus: 367 University Park–Park Forest
  River Valley Metro: University Park 1, University Park 2

South Chicago branch Edit

The branch leaves the mainline south of the former 67th Street station.

County Zone Location Station Connections and notes
Cook B Chicago Stony Island   CTA Bus: 28 Stony Island, 71 71st/South Shore
Bryn Mawr   CTA Bus: N5 South Shore Night, J14 Jeffery Jump, 15 Jeffery Local, 71 71st/South Shore
South Shore   CTA Bus: 6 Jackson Park Express, 26 South Shore Express, 71 71st/South Shore
Windsor Park   CTA Bus: N5 South Shore Night, 71 71st/South Shore, 75 74th/75th
Cheltenham   CTA Bus: 79 79th
83rd Street   CTA Bus: N5 South Shore Night, 26 South Shore Express, 71 71st/South Shore
87th Street   CTA Bus: 87 87th
91st Street (South Chicago) Closed in 2001, replaced by South Chicago (93rd Street)
South Chicago (93rd Street)   CTA Bus: N5 South Shore Night, 26 South Shore Exp., 30 South Chicago, 71 71st/South Shore, 87 87th, 95 95th

Blue Island branch Edit

The branch leaves the main line south of Kensington/115th Street.

County Zone Location Station Connections and notes
Cook C Chicago State Street   CTA Bus: 34 South Michigan
Stewart Ridge
West Pullman   CTA Bus: 8A South Halsted, 108 Halsted/95th
  Pace Bus: 352 Halsted, 359 Robbins–South Kedzie Ave
Racine Avenue
Calumet Park Ashland Avenue
D Burr Oak   Pace Bus: 359 Robbins–South Kedzie Ave
Blue Island Blue Island   Metra:  Rock Island (at Blue Island–Vermont Street)
  Pace Bus: 348 Harvey–Riverdale–Blue Island, 349 South Western, 359 Robbins–South Kedzie Ave, 385 87th/111th/127th

Footnotes Edit

  1. ^ "Operations and Ridership Data". Metra. Commuter Rail Division of the Regional Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  2. ^ State of the System - Metra Electric
  3. ^ "COMMUTER RAIL RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL – 2014" (PDF). Metra: 3. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-26.
  4. ^ "Did you know?" (PDF). On the Bi-Level: 3. June 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-02.
  5. ^ "The best and worst of Metra's on-time performance". Chicago Tribune. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  6. ^ Allen & Benedict.
  7. ^ "Fair Transit South Cook |". Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  8. ^ "Cook County's Pilot Program Aims To Boost Metra Electric, Rock Island Ridership By Slashing Fares In Half". Block Club Chicago. 2021-01-29. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  9. ^ "The Gold Line Proposal". Hyde park Urbanist. October 11, 2007. Archived from the original on July 1, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  10. ^ Freemark, Yonah (July 6, 2009). "Chicago Transit Advocates Encourage Rapid Transit Conversion of Metra Line". The Transport Politic. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
  11. ^ "RTA Releases List of 19 Proposed Transit Projects Throughout the Region for Public Comment" (PDF). Regional Transportation Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 15, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  12. ^ Hilkevitch, Jon; Worthington, Rogers (18 April 1999). "Metra Wish List Grows With 3 Ambitious Lines". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  13. ^ Groark, Virginia (8 February 2005). "Metra line extension proposed to Peotone airport". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Systemwide Cost Benefit Analysis of Major Capital Improvements" (PDF). Retrieved May 7, 2022.
  15. ^ "Metra proposes revised Metra Electric schedule | Metra".
  16. ^ "Final Metra Electric Line schedule revision released | Metra".
  17. ^ "RIDERSHIP TRENDS ANNUAL REPORT 2021" (PDF). Metra. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  18. ^ "RTAMS | Regional Transportation Authority Mapping and Statistics". Retrieved 2023-06-22.
  19. ^ New Highliners will roll out of the factory Archived 2012-09-07 at the Wayback Machine, Metra - On the Bi-Level, Commuter Newsletter, January 2011
  20. ^ "Metra - Metra Train #117 operates past the 18th St station". Facebook.
  21. ^ Ridership Trends - Annual Report 2017 (PDF) (Report). Metra Division of Strategic Capital Planning. February 2018. p. 32. Retrieved November 4, 2018.

References Edit

External links Edit

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