Brown named new Metra chairwoman amid turbulent times for the commuter service

Metra directors broke new ground Wednesday in electing public transit veteran and board member Romayne C. Brown as chairwoman.

Dolton resident Brown, who has been on the Metra board since 2013 and was a Chicago Transit Authority executive, is the board's first female African American chairwoman. She succeeds Chairman Norm Carlson of Lake Forest, whose term expired. He will continue as vice chairman.

She begins her four-year term amid turbulence with Metra ridership down by 90% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, tough labor negotiations and a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall.

The situation is "the most difficult time in Metra's history," Brown said in a statement. "We have many challenges ahead due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I look forward to working with the board and Metra staff to meet those challenges and work toward creating a better Metra."

Brown started at the CTA as a conductor in 1978 and worked her way up to vice president of rail operations, overseeing a budget of $1.3 billion and handling safety, staffing, and passenger issues.

"Romayne has the energy and earnest desire to make a difference and she will make a marked impact," Carlson said in a statement.

Brown is the only woman on Metra's current board.

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