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Metra ridership slowly recovering after pandemic lows

Ridership has increased 2% since April 21.

Metra ridership is slowly increasing after a major decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Metra ridership is slowly increasing after a major decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sun-Times file

Metra’s ridership is growing at a slow but steady pace — increasing by 2% since April 21 — as the commuter rail agency plans to ramp up service on many lines in anticipation of more riders on Memorial Day weekend.

The transit agency reached 36,100 passenger trips on Tuesday, still just 13% of pre-pandemic levels for the same time in 2019. The March 2019 weekday average was 279,540 passenger trips.

“It’s slow and it’s sure. Way up from what it was this time last year, when we were almost at the lowest point of our ridership,” James Derwinski, Metra’s CEO and executive director, said at Wednesday’s board of directors meeting.

In March, passenger trips per month were at 8.5% of pre-pandemic levels.

In January 2020, passengers took nearly six million trips; this past January, there were just over 500,000 trips. February’s number was even lower, at 493,000 trips.

“I anticipate another bump here coming around Memorial Day, its another line in the sand, its been talked a lot with business and were prepared for that,” Derwinski added.

Anticipating the increase in demand, Metra has been running shadow trains, which follow scheduled trains to handle any surprise overflow of passengers.