September 23, 2011
By Amanda Drapiewski
After a proposal by Metra about possibly shutting down certain lines, Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) and 22 other elected officials sent a letter opposing the changes.
Expressed in the letter was opposition to Metra’s proposal to reduce weekday service and cut weekend service entirely on the Southwest Service Line.
Lipinski led the way in establishing long-sought weekend service on the line more than two years ago.
As of last Friday, Metra decided not to cut trains on the Southwest Line.
“Metra’s Board of Directors made the right decision Friday in rejecting a proposal to cut weekend and weekday service on the Southwest Service Line,” said Lipinski. “The impact of cutting Southwest Service on Metra’s budget deficit would have been negligible, but the impact on the public would have been significant.”
Metra has said it faces a budget gap of $100 million.
Under the plan, Southwest Service riders would have lost all six Saturday trains plus some weekday service, while eight other lines would see no cuts whatsoever.
“I have been taking Metra trains into Chicago for 27 years,” said Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann. “It wasn’t until a few years ago that I and many others switched from taking the Beverly Rock Island train service to the Oak Lawn line because they added more train service to the southwest line.”
In a presentation to Metra Directors in July, staffers listed several reasons not to eliminate weekend service system-wide, stating “regular weekend passengers would feel disenfranchised,” while “savings would be minimal” and the “ability to attract new riders through weekend service would be lost.”
That certainly holds true for the Southwest Service Line.
Bridgeview Mayor Steven Landek commended Lipinski for leading the way to oppose the service cuts.
“Having led the effort that resulted in the establishment of weekend service in 2009, I know how important it is to residents of both southwest Cook County and northeast Will County,” said Lipinski.
“It (Metra service) has been great, and thousands in the southwest suburbs appreciate and use that service,” said Heilmann.
Not only does Metra want to cut services, but riders could now see fares rise more than 26 percent.
The proposal would boost fares dramatically across the board, though the increases would vary widely based on the type of ticket purchased and the distance travelled, Metra officials said.
The cost of one-way tickets would increase by an average of 17 percent, while 10-ride packages would jump 32 percent and monthly passes would rise nearly 30 percent, according to the staff proposal.
The possible fare increase would not be in effect till next year.
“I encourage Metra to seek ways to increase its efficiency so that it can select options for trimming its deficit that do the least harm to the public and to future ridership,” said Lipinski. “I look forward to continuing to ensure an adequate level of service along the line.”
Signatures included on the letter were those of Burbank Mayor Harry Klein, Landek, Chicago Aldermen Marty Quinn (13th), Lona Lane (18th) and Michael Zalewski (23rd), and Heilmann.