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Commuter Ops

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Later next year, Metra is planning to introduce “a new multi-day pass product,” Ciavarella said, specifically mentioning 2-day passes, 3-day passes and 4-day passes – something the transit agency never had for weekdays. She also mentioned potentially introducing peak and off-peak fairs – something Metra has been discussing for years. But perhaps the most notable longer-term change would be decreasing the number of fare zones. While Ciavarella didn’t elaborate on what that might look like, even before the pandemic, Metra made some changes along those lines. In July 2018, it merged further-flung fare zones K, L and M with fare zone J, in hopes that reducing ticket prices on the most expensive fare zones in the system would encourage more riders. At the same time, it shifted some fare zone boundaries within the city of Chicago to make some Metra Electric trips on the South Side cheaper. The future of Metra schedules, both during and after the pandemic, is more fluid, but Ciavarella acknowledged that even after a vaccine or an effective treatment is introduced, things won’t necessarily go back to the way they were pre-pandemic She said that Metra would beef up service based on demand, while also acknowledging the “chicken or the egg” problem – riders can’t flock to service that doesn’t currently exist. Ciavarella said that the transit agency has been talking to Chicago Chamber of Commerce, as well as the businesses along the Lake Cook Road corridor in Northbrook, a major reverse commuting destination in the suburbs, to get a better idea of how many commuters would take Metra and what times would work best. Ciavarella said that the transit agency Is looking into providing “a consistent and frequent service,” with more regular intervals between trains. Depending on demand, Metra would also consider adding new express services and expanding reverse commuting options. It will be looking into adjusting schedules to make it easier to transfer between Metra lines, as well as between Metra and CTA/Pace buses and ‘L’ trains – something that, as I’ve noted before, was a mixed bag at best before the pandemic and only got worse in the suburbs as Metra schedules shifted while most Pace bus schedules remained the same. “A lot of our schedules are remnants of 1984,” Ciavarella said. “The service patterns have changed since then. [The schedules] will be remarkably different than what we’ve seen before.” She emphasized that this goes for just about every facet of Metra’s services. “As the ridership has changed, as the world has changed, we need to be a little more flexible.”