Ridership down on Metra, Amtrak, expected to decrease further as rail agencies consider service reductions

Metra and Amtrak were running normally Thursday, but both rail agencies expect a dip in ridership as people adjust their lives to the realities of the coronavirus and social distancing.

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Amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, a woman wears a face mask Thursday morning as she heads to Union Station.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Metra and Amtrak are reporting a decrease in passengers and they expect ridership to dip even more in coming days as coronavirus spreads.

Both rail agencies are also mulling reductions in service in anticipation of fewer people taking public transportation.

“Our conductors are telling us they’ve seen a slight decrease in ridership this week and a number of passengers have been saying their businesses have given them permission to work from home in the next couple weeks,” Metra spokeswoman MegReile said Thursday.

Exact numbers weren’t immediately available, she said.

Asked if cuts in service were forthcoming, she responded: “We’re monitoring the situation, if there’s no one riding the trains, yes that’s a possibility. We’re in early stages of creating contingency plans. There’s so many unknowns.”

Reile noted that trains were running normally Thursday and suggested riders keep tabs on the situation by checking Metra’s website — metrarail.com — and social media feeds.

A CTA spokeswoman said Thursday there’s been no “discernible change” in ridership over the last few weeks on bus and rail lines.

Amtrak’s nationwide bookings are down 50%, cancellations are up more than 300% and “significant reductions in train service across portions of our network” were expected, according to an internal company advisory that was made public this week.

Amtrak trains in and out of Chicago were running normally Thursday, but that could change soon, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Thursday.

“Changes are likely, how many will occur in Chicago has not yet been determined,” Magliari said.

Pace, which provide bus service in Chicago and the suburbs, has seen no change in ridership as of Wednesday. Numbers weren’t available for Thursday.

“We’ve seen no dips, but as more employers move to work from home situations, we do expect a dip,” Pace spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said.

There are no plans to reduce service, she said, noting Pace is monitoring the situation and will adjust service accordingly.

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