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.

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