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Women of Metra:
Meet Metra Railway

Women of Metra Series

June 2018


As part of a regional transportation network, Metra provides safe, reliable, efficient commuter rail service that enhances the economic and environmental health of Northeast Illinois.


Metra's mission is to be a world-class commuter rail agency linking communities throughout the region by

  • Providing the safest, most efficient and most reliable service to our customers;

  • Sustaining our infrastructure for future generations;

  • Leading the industry in achieving continuous improvement, innovation and transparency;

  • Facilitating economic vitality throughout Northeast Illinois.


Metra is mandated under the RTA Act of 1974. The Commuter Rail Division, which held its first meeting in June 1984, became “Metra” in 1985 (short for “Metropolitan Rail”).

The agency provides service to and from downtown Chicago with 241 stations over 11 routes totaling nearly 500 route miles and approximately 1,200 miles of track. Metra operates more than 700 weekday trains, providing about 300,000 passenger trips each weekday. The Metra service area encompasses more than 3,700 square miles. Metra owns and operates four rail lines (Rock Island, Metra Electric, Milwaukee North and Milwaukee West). Three Metra lines are operated by Metra employees over freight railroad-owned track through trackage rights or lease agreements (Heritage Corridor, North Central Service and SouthWest Service). Four additional Metra lines are operated directly by freight railroads through purchase-of-service agreements (BNSF, Union Pacific North, Union Pacific Northwest and Union Pacific West).

In 2016, Metra recorded 80.4 million passenger trips. Total number of employees is unknown.


Board of Directors

  • Norman Carlson, Chairman of the Board, Lake County

  • Romayne C. Brown, Vice Chairman, Cook County (Interviewee)

  • John Plante, Treasurer, Suburban Cook County

  • Rodney S. Craig, Secretary, Suburban Cook County

  • Manuel Barbosa, Director, Kane County

  • Don A. De Graff, Director, Suburban Cook County

  • Alexandra Holt, Director, Chicago

  • Ken Koehler, Director, McHenry County

  • Stephen Palmer, Director, Suburban Cook County

  • John P. Zediker, Director, DuPage County

  • Vacant, Director, Will County


On Safety

“Safety is Metra’s number one priority. Not just for our employees on the job but in all our interactions with the communities we serve. That's why Metra proactively reinforces the importance of railroad safety through its Operation Lifesaver Train Safety Awareness Program and our annual Safety Poster and Essay Contest.”


On Positive Train Control (PTC) 

The 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act required implementation of positive train control (PTC) by the end of 2015 on all passenger rail routes and on freight lines carrying certain hazardous materials. The cat was passed in response to several fatal rail accidents between 2002 and 2008, it was the first authorization of FRA’s safety programs since 1994.


In the fall of 2015, new legislation was passed that extended the deadline for installation of PTC to 2018 but also allowed up to two additional years to finalize implementation and testing of PTC provided the railroads file an alternative schedule and meet specific benchmarks.


Metra is responsible for installing PTC on all trains and along the five lines it controls – Metra Electric, Milwaukee North, Milwaukee West, Rock Island and SouthWest Service.


PTC components are being installed on 154 Metra locomotives and switch engines, 187 cab cars used on our diesel lines and 26 Highliner cars used on the Metra Electric. The 160 new Highliners that were recently delivered to Metra are already PTC-compliant. Wayside towers are being installed at 219 locations to communicate with Metra rolling stock and with Metra’s centralized office dispatching system.

For the six other Metra lines owned by private railroads – BNSF, Union Pacific and CN – Metra is contributing a share of PTC installation costs.


In January 2016, Metra filed an alternative schedule for implementing PTC by 2020, although they have previously committed to implementation in 2019. To date, Metra has spent $182 million in capital funding on PTC .


By the end of 2018, to meet the benchmarks required for an alternative schedule, Metra will have:

  • Installed all PTC equipment

  • Acquired all necessary radio spectrum

  • Trained all necessary personnel

  • Initiated revenue service PTC demonstration on one line

On Trip Optimizer

A state-of-the-art onboard train control system, Trip Optimizer (TO) functions much like an aircraft’s autopilot, learning a train’s characteristics, creating an optimal trip profile, then automatically controlling locomotive throttle and dynamic brakes to reduce fuel burn and provide efficient train handling. The result? Trains run on time, operate more smoothly and use fuel more efficiently — resulting in 3-17% fuel savings and corresponding emissions reduction. 10% fuel savings certified by the


Other Projects and Events:

  • 75TH Street Corridor Improvement Projects: The 75th Street CIP is the largest project in the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program, 70 projects designed to improve the efficiency of passenger and freight rail operations throughout the region. Anticipated outcomes include congestion relief at Union Station, SWS expansion opportunities, and improved service reliability. No funding has been identified for the $1 billion 75th Street CIP or for the additional $500 million of required Metra improvements necessary to support the project.

  • On April 27th, Metra announced the discontinuation of the “Ticket-by-Internet” program, effective June 30th. The decision came in response to declining online ticket sales.

  • In May, mysterious luggage shutdown much of the commuter service out of the Ogilvie Transportation Center. The abandoned luggage triggered a bomb squad investigation. According to an article in the Daily Herald, “No Metra trains were allowed in or out of the downtown station as of midmorning Wednesday after police were called in after a janitor saw a suitcase and a bag left near the train tracks by a man who was behaving suspiciously. Metra announced at 12:19 p.m. that trains were running again.”

  • On Monday, June 11, Metra implemented a change in schedule on the BNSF line to Aurora to accommodate PTC installation. The line is the busiest in the system. The schedule “shake-up” is the result of PTC processes that require crews to start up and check PTC before each new train run. The process takes approximately 6 minutes.

  • In a recent letter from the CEO and BOD, Metra leadership describes the current economic state of the organization as “the worst financial crisis in its 33-year history.” The letter notes the continually decreasing state funding, insufficient ticket sales to support operational costs, lack of competitive hiring, an ever-degrading fleet, and diminished public funding as a result of online purchases and loss of sales tax revenue. The letter closes with the statement “we cannot continue as we are.”

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