Mundelein prompts study to improve Metra's North Central service
Sparked by Mundelein's request for assistance, an effort has been launched to grow ridership on Metra's North Central Service from Chicago to Antioch.
The Regional Transportation Authority on Wednesday announced a first-of-its-kind study to explore possible new funding sources to boost use of the line, which is considered a weak performer.
Metra, the Lake County Transportation Alliance and other communities along the line are involved in the collaborative effort, which could result in a model for the region's transportation network, according to the RTA.
Without state or other funding, Metra can't continue to operate the system as it exists, CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said last fall, meaning weak performers like North Central could be at risk.
The average weekday ridership on the North Central Service, which operates on a limited schedule, is 6,128, according to the most recent figures available. For comparison, Metra's Milwaukee District North Line to Fox Lake carried 23,443 passengers on weekdays.
Mundelein's station is near a relatively new village hall in an area the officials want to develop into a town center. In 2017, Mundelein applied to the RTA for assistance through a community planning program to assess the situation.
"In the past few years, Metra representatives have been very open about the realities facing their budget and the impacts to service, including the NCS," according to Amanda Orenchuk, the village's community development director.
Orenchuk said all transit-oriented developments along the line would suffer with service cuts.
"Rather than sit idle, Mundelein engaged the RTA and line stakeholders to come together for a solution," she said.
A project team will begin collecting data and input from stakeholders including a rider survey to be widely distributed. Identifying the most relevant service improvements and public preferences for securing funding to support the line will be other tasks.
"It (the study) will help identify the specific improvements needed to provide additional service on the NCS line while also analyzing funding and legislative strategies that can help make this vision a reality," according to Leanne Redden, RTA executive director.
Orenchuk said it will be a long process.
"This isn't going to be a quick fix or a temporary solution," she said. "We need longevity."