Metra Chicago ridership rises as more get vaccinated, work downtown

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Metra says that now that more people have been vaccinated against COVID and more employees are coming back downtown instead of working remotely, ridership is rising.

Metra has struggled to power through the pandemic, but they are seeing encouraging signs.

"We're looking at it ridership weekly to see where the trends are, and actually, we've been starting to add trains every month since January and we're going to continue through the summer," said Bruce Marcheschi, Metra's COO

Last Friday, ridership was over 32,000 passenger trips, which is the highest since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Still, that only represents 12% of the typical number of weekday riders, which had previously been averaging about 280,000 system-wide.

Only 61% of trains are in operation due to the low demand.

David Patchin has been riding the train from Wilmette to his office near Union Station since October, when his company started people back in. Last fall, he saw about four people per car.

"When I wrote home last night that we're probably, you know 20-30 people in the car. So it's starting to pick up again," Patchin said.

Metra is hoping that with Chicago targeting a July 4 full reopening date, the agency will be back on track for a big boost in ridership,

Part of that will depend on how businesses modify their office work models, but Metra is counting on more than just weekday commuters.

"People want to get out and do what they do, go to restaurants, go to concerts, go to baseball games, just get out and see people," Marcheschi said.

"This is my first time on the train, in about a year, honestly, and it was really clean and it was really empty," said Mona McDougall, who came downtown from Berwyn for a doctor's appointment.

Metra hopes that as more people get vaccinated, the fear of taking public transportation will ease, and seats will once again start filling up.
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