What Metra stations are popular? Agency looking at well-used and underused stops

Metra stations will go under the microscope as the agency launches an effort to grow ridership.

Officials Wednesday released a draft station evaluation policy on Metra's website and asked the public to comment now through April 15.

The intent is to work with communities to increase passengers at stations where ridership is below expectations. In a worst-case scenario, some underused stations could be closed, but such a move would require a board vote, planners said.

At the same time, the railroad is open to partnering with municipalities to create new stations on heavily used sections of the commuter system.

"No two stations are alike," Senior Division Director Lynnette Ciavarella said. "Data alone cannot tell the whole story of a station and the role it plays within in a particular community or what it means for the region."

There are 24 "unsustainable" stations where ridership is below 10 percent. That means 53 or fewer weekday riders compared to the median average of 410, planners said.

Most of those stations are on the Metra Electric Line, but others include Rosemont and Schiller Park on the North Central Service, Mannheim on the Milwaukee District West, and Kedzie on the Union Pacific West.

Metra planners would work with communities to recommend ideas to attract riders.

"We realize we need the local perspective and the local flair. ... It's important we work with stakeholders to understand what the station is for them and what the station means for us," Ciavarella said.

Ninety-three Metra stations are classified as underperforming with ridership between 10 and 50 percent, while 117 are 50 percent and above. Those include 59th Street in Aurora on the BNSF Line with 5,781 weekday boardings.

Communities interested in putting a new station between two existing stops would need to apply to Metra, which would conduct a feasibility study. Funding would also need to be secured.

Metra is studying how to optimize its stations. If the draft plan is approved by the board, evaluations of stations could occur every two years.

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