Families Encouraged to Ditch Their Cars and Take a “Traincation” Instead

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A father and his kids on the upper deck of a Metra car. Photo by Lisa K.

When people in Chicagoland think about taking a summer vacation with their family, the plans often involve an automobile. However, in an era of high gas prices, in a region blessed with a 500-mile commuter rail system, it makes a lot of sense to rethink the concept of the family getaway to include car-free excursions.

Several parents I know take advantage of Metra commuter rail’s Bikes on Trains program to take their children to fun destinations like campgrounds and beaches. While that kind of trip requires a sense of adventure, and kids under 12 aren’t officially allowed to bring bikes on board, a new Metra campaign is encouraging families to take a “traincation” to events, festivals and tourist attractions across the region.

The promotion wisely emphasizes that riding the train is cheaper, safer and more relaxing than driving. Although the railroad recently raised the price of a weekend pass, which allows unlimited travel on Saturdays and Sunday, from $5 to $7, it’s still a great bargain, and weekend Family Fares allow up to three kids 11 or younger to ride for free with a paying adult. On weekdays, children six and under ride free, and the fare for kids aged seven to 11 is roughly half the adult price.

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This travel guide explains which bus will take you from LaSalle Station to, say, the Museum Campus.

“The goal is to encourage families to use Metra to take advantage of cultural activities downtown and in other suburbs,” said spokeswoman Carolyn Tucker. Parents can email their names and addresses to funinthecity@metrarr.com to receive a kit with travel ideas and suggestions, including a schedule for the nearest Metra line; a guide to CTA bus connections at that line’s Loop station; and an event planner with info about Chicago tours, museums, sports venues and fests. The kit also includes coupons to many attractions and activities, ranging from the Chicago Children’s Museum, to sightseeing boats, to theater history and chocolate tours.

The traincation kit provides all the info a family needs to make a seamless excursion from, say, an outer-ring suburb to the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park via rail and express bus. Hopefully, this smart Metra initiative will lead many Chicagoland families to leave their cars at home next time they want to go enjoy one of our region’s many offerings.

  • CL

    I got two free Metra tickets in the mail today as part of their “Test Drive” promotion. I think I saw a link on this blog, signed up, and then forgot about it. So thanks for the tip! The tickets came with a booklet that has information about riding Metra, along with a map of the system. Seems like a great way to get people to try it.

  • Katja

    Metra is also a purveyor of car-free fun for adults; the Flossmoor Station brewery in the Flossmoor station is pretty delicioso. It’s also only ~10 miles from Three Floyds, if you don’t want to make the whole journey there by bike.

  • Anne A

    If Metra backs this up by responding with more capacity (more open cars), that’s fine. If they continue their “cattle car” approach on off-peak trips, this won’t get many takers.

  • You’re preaching to the choir Katja! Here’s a guide I wrote to visiting brewpubs via Metra, although there are probably a few new transit accessible breweries in the area since I wrote this. http://gridchicago.com/2012/commuter-ales-take-a-car-free-road-trip-to-these-metra-friendly-brewpubs/

  • You’re preaching to the choir Katja! Here’s a guide I wrote to visiting brewpubs via Metra, although there are probably a few new transit accessible breweries in the area since I wrote this. http://gridchicago.com/2012/commuter-ales-take-a-car-free-road-trip-to-these-metra-friendly-brewpubs/

  • Adam Herstein

    I did the Metra Electric trip to Flossmoor recently and it was a lot of fun. There’s also the Two Bothers Roundhouse next to the Aurora BNSF Metra station.

  • Adam Herstein

    Yeah, I got that as well. I was confused until I remembered that I took their survey a while back.

  • Katja

    Oh man, best reference ever. Thanks!!

  • Adam Herstein

    Now if we could only get train service to Lake Geneva…

  • Sure thing! There are probably some new Metra-accessable breweries and brewpubs nowadays so, readers, please let me know if I’m missing any and perhaps we’ll run an update in the future.

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