West suburban and West Side riders will get more Metra service starting Dec. 5, with Oak Park, Maywood and Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood getting more service than they had even before the pandemic.
The new schedule represents something of a return to pre-pandemic service levels for the Union Pacific West Line riders, which serves East Garfield Park’s Kedzie station, Oak Park, River Forest, Maywood, Melrose Park, Bellwood and Berkeley. Similar to what Metra did on other lines earlier this year, the headways were adjusted to be more consistent and service frequency was improved in several stations.
In Oak Park, trains will stop an average of once every 15 minutes during rush hour, an improvement compared an average of 30 minutes under the current schedule and the average of 20 minutes before the pandemic. And while, even before the pandemic, many trains skipped Kedzie, Maywood and Melrose Park stations, all trains except some express trains and late evening trains will now stop there.
During the Nov. 11 Metra Board of Directors meeting, Metra Executive Director Jim Derwinski announced that the transit agency will be beefing up service for several lines that are still operating below pre-pandemic service levels, including the Union Pacific West Line. At the time, Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis said that he hasn’t seen the new schedules, so he couldn’t comment on any details.
According to the schedules released on Nov. 22, Metra is adding nine trains in each direction, increasing the number of trips from 40 to 58. It will restore the after 10:30 p.m. evening trains that were suspended early in the pandemic, albeit with slightly different schedules. Metra increased the number of rush hour trains and set more consistent headways, with trains stopping at Kedzie and west suburban stations once every half an hour. For Oak Park, inbound morning rush hour trains will stop every 15 minutes, and outbound afternoon rush hour trains will stop there every 10 to 20 minutes.
With a few exceptions, the off-peak and evening trains will stop at each station once every hour. There are currently two-hour gaps in several parts of the off-peak schedule – something that was an issue even before the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, most inbound off-peak inbound trains stopped at Kedzie station, but only two off-peak trains stopped there when heading back. Most express trains in both directions skipped it as well, and none of the evening trains stopped there. The current schedule maintained that pattern. Under the new schedule, most trains, including some early evening trains that currently skip it, will stop at Kedzie.
In a statement to the media, Derwinski described the new schedule as a way to address the growing travel demand and adopt to the post-pandemic commuting patterns.
“We are greatly encouraged by the growth in ridership so far this year and are happy that we are able to expand service on the UP-West Line to provide commuters with another option as winter sets in,” he stated.