2 new Metra BNSF trains coming; more weekend service on 2 other lines

Two new weekday trains are coming for Metra BNSF commuters, and more weekend trains are on tap for Rock Island and UP Northwest riders.

Metra plans to schedule a new train during the morning and evening rushes on the BNSF Line to address concerns that resulted from last year’s implementation of positive train control, CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said.

Both trains will be included in a new BNSF Line schedule to be unveiled in June, Derwinski told Metra’s board of directors.

The additional trains “will be a great enhancement” to the BNSF schedule, Derwinski said, adding that the other timetable revisions will be “very minor.”

Metra’s schedule lists 28 BNSF Line trains arriving at Chicago Union Station between 6 a.m. and 9 am., and 22 trains departing between 3 p.m. and 6 pm. The BNSF Line to Aurora carries 64,000 daily riders, the most of Metra’s 11 lines. 

In June 2018, Metra revised its schedule for the BNSF line due to the implementation of PTC, the federally mandated technology intended to automatically stop a train to prevent a collision or derailment. The changes were needed because PTC requires more time to “flip,” or prepare for a return trip.

But even though the revised schedule had been announced three months prior, the changes prompted so many overcrowding complaints that Metra was compelled to issue an apology.

Metra also announced Wednesday that it will increase weekend service this summer as a pilot project on two lines, the Rock Island and UP Northwest, to give customers more travel options.

In a survey of weekend riders, a majority of respondents said they wanted more frequent service, as well as faster service, according to Lynnette Ciavarella, Metra’s senior director of strategic planning. 

Metra is testing whether the pilot will increase ridership and revenue on weekends.

The new schedules begin the weekend of June 1-2 and end Labor Day weekend.

On the Rock Island Line, there will be six new inbound and six new outbound trains to provide hourly service on Saturdays. There are no Sunday changes.

On the UP Northwest Line, there will be five new inbound and five new outbound trains on Saturdays, and three new inbound and three new outbound trains on Sundays/holidays, including new express trains to and from Arlington Heights.

— Richard Wronski

A version of this story appeared first on Trains Magazine’s News Wire.

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