Lightfoot, Preckwinkle Clash Over Metra Electric Proposal

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is supporting a proposed pilot program to lower fares and expand train service on the South Side and in the south suburbs.

But she’s run into a bit of a block: Mayor Lori Lightfoot opposes the plan because she fears a drop in CTA ridership, which already saw a 2.5% decrease last year.

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Now a coalition of civic and business groups says the pilot has “enormous” potential to fix a transit desert by boosting ridership on Metra’s Electric and Rock Island lines, among them: the Metropolitan Planning Council, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, the Active Transportation Alliance, Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Coalition for a Modern Metra Eclectic and others.

Activists want Metra Electric fares for transportation within city limits to match the CTA’s $2.50 fares. They also want Ventra card integration; low-cost transfers to the CTA and Pace; trains that run every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day and evening; and increased safety and security at stations.

“The Metra Electric is an underutilized asset.  What stops people from using Metra Electric is the condition of the stations and the fares,” said Andrea Reed, co-chair of the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric. “It’s a burden to pay a fare on the CTA after paying for a fare on Metra for work or doctors’ appointments.” 

The mayor’s office said in a statement that meetings are ongoing. “At this point, the concept is still evolving and has a number of questions surrounding it — including how the proposal would impact CTA bus and rail ridership but also affect regional transit as a whole.”

“The city thinks Metra is going to take money out of the pocket of the CTA,” said Reed. “Chicago is a major metropolitan city. The goal should be for every mode of transportation to work together to get people places they way to go. It’s a no-brainer.”

Reed joins us on “Chicago Tonight.” The city declined our invitation.

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