Weekend service to continue, Metra, RTA officials say

No cuts in weekend service for Metra riders are currently planned, but without an infusion of $32 billion nationwide for public transit, agencies will face tough choices in the coming months, officials said.

Leaders of Metra, Pace, the Regional Transportation Authority and CTA began campaigning in August for federal aid that will help fill a massive shortfall caused by plummeting ridership as a result of the pandemic.

The gap is about $400 million, CTA President Dorval Carter and RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard told Crains Chicago Business.

Without a rescue, transit agencies will need to make up the difference in cuts to service like the CTA's late-night train service, Carter said. Dillard noted, "probably weekend service is the place you'd go on Metra."

Officials later told the Daily Herald that yanking weekend service "is not something we have specifically identified as a potential cut," Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said. "But Chairman Dillard is absolutely correct that without more financial assistance, we will face some awful and extremely difficult choices, including severe cuts in service."

Dillard said Metra "will not cancel weekend trains. They sometimes on weekends scale back service, but it is too soon to know."

He added that it's Metra's call, not the RTA's, which oversees the three agencies and distributes taxes plus federal and state funds. "No stopping weekend service" for now, Dillard said.

The federal CARES Act passed in the spring provided COVID-19-related relief to numerous stakeholders including $1.4 billion for local transit agencies. That money is sustaining Metra, Pace and the CTA but will be used up in 2021, officials have said.

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