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Metra will allow commuters to bring pets on trains - but only on weekends, and only on the Rock Island District, for now. | AP File Photo

Metra hopes to give pets-on-board a trial run

SHARE Metra hopes to give pets-on-board a trial run
SHARE Metra hopes to give pets-on-board a trial run

Responding to thousands of people who signed petitions, Metra wants to allow pets on trains on the Rock Island District line for a three-month trial.

“Our customers are driving this,” Metra CEO Don Orseno said at Friday’s meeting of the Metra Citizens Advisory Board.

“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work — but not because we didn’t give it a try.”

The plan is to start by allowing pets just on the Rock Island District, and only on weekends. The pets would have to be small enough to fit in a carrier, which must be kept in a person’s lap or under their seat, officials said.

The three-month trial run would still need final approval from the Metra board of directors, which could vote on the idea as early as next month.

Metra officials say at least 4,000 people signed petitions asking Metra to investigate allowing pets on board. In doing so, Metra discovered 12 of 13 similar systems allow pets.

That includes the CTA, which lets passengers bring on small, non-disruptive pets in small protective carriers.

Officials on each Metra train would still have the right to boot a pet that is too noisy or disruptive or creates an “odor,” Metra officials told the citizen advisory board Friday. Even so, some advisory board members were skeptical.

Whether an animal creates enough of an “odor” or disruption tobe ejectedis a subjective call, said Advisory Board Chairwoman Patricia Mahon. What may disturb one person may not disturb another, she said.

“I wish we would not go down this road. It’s so subjective,” Mahon told Orseno and fellow advisory board members.

“I have some serious reservations, but I agree I can’t say it’s such a terrible idea that Metra should not try it,” said advisory board member Larry Falbe.

“I’m not a huge fan, but I respect the way Metra is going about the test,” said John McCabe, who sat in Friday for the advisory board’s west suburban representative.

Metra Chief of Operations Pete Zwolfer noted that some people were apprehensive about allowing bikes on Metra, but those concerns turned out to be unfounded.

With 4,000 to 5,000 petitioners supporting pets on board, “it’s hard to defend not trying it,” Zwolfer said.“I really think this won’t be overly utilized or problematic.”

The author of the petition, Rena Church of Aurora, contends at the petition website that allowing pets on Metra would “increase attendance at the many dog-friendly events that take place in the region, which will help boost our faltering economy.” Pets on board Metra would “not only be be good for riders and pets, but will encourage the use of Metra, which is good for the environment,” Church wrote.

To weigh in on the issue, Metra riders can sign the petition supporting pets on board Metra at http://chn.ge/1yNHZra

Or they can email Metra their opinion in advance of the Feb. 13 Metra board meeting at http://bit.ly/1uq7xoG

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