(Courtesy of Metra)

Metra has increased weekday service levels on all of its lines. The change, which started on July 12, brings Metra’s operating schedule in the west suburbs closer to what it was before the pandemic.

In a statement, Metra officials said they plan to offer more pre-pandemic off-peak options while also increasing service as more workers return to offices and vaccination becomes more widespread. 

The Union Pacific West line, with serves Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood, as well as Oak Park, River Forest, Maywood, Melrose Park, Bellwood and Berkeley, will get four new trains in each direction, though only half of those trains stop at stations in all of those communities.

The Milwaukee District West line, which serves Chicago’s Austin, Galewood and Montclare neighborhoods, will get three more inbound trains and four more outbound trains, though only one train in each direction will serve those stations. 

And the BNSF Line, which has one station in Riverside and three stations in Brookfield, will see the biggest increase of the three, though Brookfield’s non-downtown stations will see their off-peak and evening service frequencies reduced. 

Metra Executive Director Jim Derwinski stated that the transit agency expects the ridership to rebound in the coming months.

“These new schedules are intended to help our customers’ transition back to a regular work commute providing them with more choices and flexibility,” he stated. “We expect ridership to continue to increase as the summer progresses and will continue to monitor conditions and make schedule adjustments that are responsive to our customers’ needs.”

For more detailed information on the new Metra schedules, visit: metrarail.com/riding-metra/service-updates/alternate-schedules.   

Union Pacific West Line

While the schedule changes add four trains in both directions, the stations that will benefit most from it are the Oak Park station, which is located near Harlem Avenue, right next to Harlem/Lake Green Line ‘L’ station, and the Berkeley station, 5800 W. Park Ave. 

The new schedule adds two rush hour inbound trains that arrive in Downtown Chicago at 7:20 a.m. and 8 a.m. 

The former makes all stops, while the latter only stops at Berkeley and Oak Park at 7:30 a.m. and 7:38 a.m., respectively. The schedule also adds two inbound off-peak trains that will arrive in Chicago at 11:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. While the latter makes all stops, the former skips Bellwood station at 105 Fredrick Ave., Maywood station at 450 W. St. Charles Rd., as well as Kedzie station in East Garfield Park, though it does stop at Melrose Park station, which sits at Maywood/Melrose Park border at 1801 W. Main St.

The new schedule adds two mid-morning trains that leave Downtown Chicago at 9:05 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., making all stops. It also adds two afternoon rush hour trains that leave Chicago at 4:05 p.m. and 5:05 p.m. The former only stops at Oak Park and Berkeley at 4:21 p.m. and 5:21 p.m., respectively. The latter stops at all stations except Kedzie. 

Milwaukee District West Line

While the line makes five stops in Austin, with two stops serving northern Austin and three stops serving Galewood, most of the added trips bypass those stations entirely. Under the current schedule, three of those stations are flag stops, so even the trains that do serve them don’t stop there unless there’s a passenger at the platform or a rider requests the stop. 

Those stations include Grand/Cicero station at Austin/Belmont Cragin border, 1833 N. Cicero Ave., Hanson Park station at Austin/Hanson Park border, 5621 W. Armitage Ave, and Mars station, which serves Galewood’s Mars Chocolate plant at 2019 N Oak Park Ave. 

The regular stations include Galewood station at 2031 W. Narragansett Ave. and Montclare station at Galewood/Montcare border at 7007 W. Medill St.

Under the expanded schedule, those stops get one late afternoon inbound train that arrives in Downtown Chicago at 6:01 p.m. and one rush hour train that leaves downtown Chicago at 4:35 p.m. While that doesn’t add as much as other stations further out into the suburbs, it does mean that, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., the line serves Austin and Galewood once an hour instead of once every two hours.

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...