Uneasy rider? Metra outlines rules as COVID-19 restrictions eased
One person per seat in the lower level and face masks are among the new policies Metra commuters will see when they head back to workplaces Monday under Phase 3 of Illinois' reopening plan, which loosens COVID-19-related restrictions.
With Metra ridership down by 94% in May and revenues tanking, the railroad desperately needs to win back passengers.
But "know more than ever that passengers need to feel safe and confident using our service," Executive Director Jim Derwinski said.
Here are some of the latest practices Metra will deploy.
• In general, the railroad is aiming for half-full trains. The system is still operating on reduced schedules. Officials will add more cars as ridership picks up and operate "shadow trains" during rush hours that could pick up passengers to avoid crowding.
• Just one passenger per two-seater is allowed on the first level, with one person every other seat on the top level of railcars. Exceptions are permitted for families or people traveling together.
• Face masks are required and riders are asked to be physically apart.
• Commuters should stay in their seats and not pack the vestibules or aisles as the train approaches their station. Conductors will ensure plenty of time to exit, officials said.
• Riders are encouraged to buy tickets and passes through the Ventra app to reduce interactions with train crews. The railroad is offering a $10 unlimited all-day fare starting Monday available on Ventra; a $5 fee applies if purchased on board trains.
• The railroad will begin accepting cash payments for fares at ticket windows Monday.
Asked about anyone refusing to wear a face mask, spokesman Michael Gillis said "our conductors will be making plenty of announcements to reinforce the requirement, and when they observe passengers without a face covering they will remind them."
Meanwhile, Metra workers have been deep-cleaning cars since mid-March when the state's stay-at-home order was mandated.
The railroad "has been studying best practices and experimenting with new cleaning methods, new cleaning solutions and new cleaning machines," officials stated.
Daily disinfection of much-used surfaces, such as seats and handrails, will occur frequently and at least once a day.
Hand sanitizer is in train washrooms. It will be provided in cars "as the supply becomes available."
"We know more than ever the importance of providing a clean, hygienic experience on the platforms and on the trains," Derwinski said.
If you have concerns about conditions on trains, they can be reported to Metra online at metrarail.com/contact-us.