For the first time in its 34-year history, Metra will offer free train rides for an entire weekend — on every line.
Free rides will be offered all day Saturday and Sunday.
The only other time Metra offered free rides was when Gov. Rod Blagojevich instituted a free-rides-for-seniors program that was later scrapped.
Metra CEO Jim Derwinski, who took on the role in late 2017, came up with the free rides idea to counter an 8 percent drop in weekend ridership over the last year, spokeswoman Meg Reile said.
“We survived the polar vortex – now let’s have some fun. There is a lot to do in Chicago and the suburbs and Metra can take you there,” Derwinski said in a news release. “We’re hoping this weekend will convince people who have never ridden Metra or who haven’t ridden Metra in a while to become paid customers in the future.”
Metra expects to miss out on about $300,000 in ticket sales, Reile said.
Conductors will still be on the trains watching doors, answering questions and completing various other duties — they just won’t be checking for tickets.
The announcement comes as thousands of commuters were affected Tuesday by a service suspension on the Metra Electric line after an ice storm. The Metra Electric service was suspended for three days in January during the extreme cold of the polar vortex and because a freight train derailment damaged overhead electric wires.