Metra adds express trains to BNSF and Rock Island lines

An outbound BNSF train. Photo: Jeff Zoline.
An outbound BNSF train. Photo: Jeff Zoline.

In another sign that Chicagoland transit is slowly coming back from dramatic ridership losses during the pandemic, Metra announced this week that it is adding express trains to its Rock Island and BNSF lines, beginning on Monday, August 3.

“We see the disruption in commuter travel brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to rethink and retool our schedules where possible,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski in a statement. “This means looking for opportunities to provide new express services or change stopping patterns to better meet demand. It’s our hope that these changes as well as other changes we’ve made to respond to the pandemic will provide a level of confidence and convenience that bring riders to our trains.”

Rock Island Line

On the Rock Island Line, Metra will add two inbound and two outbound express trains to its weekday schedule. The new inbound express runs include a 6:45 a.m. departure from Joliet that makes all stops to Tinley Park/80th Avenue and then expresses to LaSalle Street, arriving at 7:42 a.m.

A second inbound express train will depart Joliet at 3:15 p.m. and make all stops to Blue Island/Vermont Street and make a flag stop at 35th Street/Lou Jones, arriving at LaSalle Street Station at 4:25 p.m. At stations marked on the schedule as flag stops, the train will stop to drop off passengers only if the passengers notify the conductor in advance, and will stop to pick up passengers only if they are visible to the engineer on the platform.

In addition, to accommodate the new morning express train, Metra will be adjusting the schedule and renumbering the train run on one morning inbound Rock Island Beverly Branch Line train. Train 302 on the current schedule will be renumbered as Train 604 and will now depart Blue Island/ Vermont Street ten minutes later at 7:06 a.m.

Outbound Rock Island Line service will also offer new express options. A new outbound train will depart LaSalle Street at 1:40 p.m., making a flag stop at 35th Street/Lou Jones, express to Blue Island Vermont Street and make all stops to Joliet arriving at 2:50 p.m. A second outbound express will depart at 5:25 p.m., express to Tinley Park/80th Avenue and make all stops to Joliet arriving at 6:26 p.m.

BNSF Line

Metra is adding weekday morning and evening express service to the BNSF Line, normally its busiest train line starting Monday. In the morning, the inbound express train that leaves Aurora at 7:20 a.m. will run express from Brookfield, arriving at 8:35 a.m., saving 10 minutes compared to regular service. A new train will provide local inbound service between Brookfield and Union Station leaving Brookfield at 8:18 a.m. and arriving downtown at 8:50 a.m.

In the afternoon, the outbound train that departs from Union Station at 3:38 p.m. will now run express to Brookfield and then make all stops to Aurora, arriving at 5 p.m., saving 10 minutes over regular service. A new outbound train will leave Union Station at 3:41 p.m. and make all stops to Brookfield, arriving at 4:14 p.m.

Other BNSF Line trains, currently on the schedule, will be making additional stops to better accommodate ridership patterns, Metra says. In the morning, inbound Train 9402 and Train 9406 will make additional stops at Brookfield, and outbound Train 9501 and Train 1301 will now stop at Halsted Street. Afternoon inbound Train 1318 and Train 9408 will add stops at Halsted, and Train 9403 and Train 9407 will add stops at Brookfield.

Also, on Monday, Metra will adjust the schedules of two trains on the Metra Electric Line “to more accurately reflect actual operating conditions.” Train 711 will now be scheduled to arrive at University Park at 7:50 p.m. and Train 142 will depart University Park at 7:52 p.m. Scheduled station stops for both trains along the route have been adjusted to reflect these changes.

Alternate weekday schedules for all Metra service can be found at metrarail.com. Passengers on the Rock Island, BNSF and Metra Electric lines can review the new schedules here. Sunday schedules will continue to be used on both weekend days on all lines. Operating Sunday schedules on both weekend days on all lines means that Saturday service will be suspended on the SouthWest Service Line and the Metra Electric Blue Island Branch.

Metra promises that it will continue to keep tabs on ridership growth and travel patterns, adding cars or trains “to make sure that as ridership grows there will still be plenty of room for physical distancing.”

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