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Local News

New Metra tool helps riders avoid crowded trains

Agency testing online ridership dashboard

A commuter prepares to board a train bound for Chicago on Jan. 5, 2019, at the Joliet Metra Station in Joliet.
A commuter prepares to board a train bound for Chicago on Jan. 5, 2019, at the Joliet Metra Station in Joliet.

As residents return to work, Metra announced this week it is testing a ridership dashboard meant to provide information to riders about how crowded trains have been on each line.

The information will help riders who have the flexibility to travel at different times to make “data-driven decisions” to select less crowded trains amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

“We hope this tool will help riders plan their travel according to their personal needs, as well as to encourage riders to shift to less congested trains, when possible,” Metra CEO and executive director Jim Derwinski said in the release.

The dashboard indicates the average number of riders per train car over a five-day period. It’s being released as a test starting with weekday trains only and provides a view of the current schedule for each line.

Each train will be highlighted in one of four different colors to indicate how crowded it was the prior week.

• Low ridership will be highlighted in green. It indicates an average of fewer than 50 riders a car on the train. Riders can expect to find a seat at least one row from other riders.

• Some ridership will be highlighted in yellow. It indicates an average of 50 to 70 riders a car on the train. Riders can expect to find a seat and not have another rider sitting next to them.

• Moderate ridership will be highlighted in orange. It indicates an average of 70 to 100 riders a car on the train. Riders may have to stand to avoid sitting next to another rider. When a train reaches this ridership threshold, Metra will add cars to the train or trains to the schedule if possible to create more opportunity for physical distancing.

• High ridership will be highlighted in red. It indicates more than 100 riders a car on the train. Limited space will be available, and riders may need to stand near other riders.

The dashboard occasionally will include trains highlighted in gray. This color will be used when schedule changes occur and Metra is collecting data for new trains, or there are anomalies in the data for a particular train.

It takes a week to collect data for trains that are new to a schedule.

Metra runs three lines that travel through several Will County communities including the Heritage Corridor line, the Rock Island District line and the Southwest Service line.

If riders have any suggestions or other feedback about this tool, they are encouraged to email Metra at dashboard@metrarr.com.

The dashboard can be found at www.metrarail.com/dashboard.

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