Chicago’s Metra is installing charging stations at Millennium Station, Van Buren Street Station, LaSalle Street Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center to provide its customers with a convenient and free place to recharge electronic mobile devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Charging stations at Millennium Station were installed last week and all four stations are expected to be complete by September. Metra also anticipates installing charging stations in the coming months in its ticketing area at Chicago Union Station.
"We’ve heard from our customers that charging stations would be a useful amenity for people waiting for trains and we stepped up to the plate and got it done,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “Our goal is to convince more drivers that Metra offers a safe, efficient travel option that enables commuters to access the technology they want and deserve.”
A recent study by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University indicated more than three times as many Metra riders are performing electronic tasks such as texting and reading emails on phones today compared to five years ago. Fewer than 14% of passengers were performing such tasks in 2010, compared to 44% this year.
The study also indicated that commuter dependence on electronic devices may be boosting Metra ridership, which has grown despite fare increases that have boosted the cost of travel. This suggests that other factors — including the value passengers place on using electronic devices while traveling — may be offsetting some of the effects of rising fares.
“Making the right capital investments so that riders have access to technology is a good business decision for Metra,” said Orseno. “It helps us attract and retain the riders we need to keep ticket revenues up and fare increases down.”
Metra has taken other notable steps to cater to passengers who use technology by installing power outlets in railcars and pursuing the mobile ticketing app, expected to launch this fall.
The charging stations were fabricated using manpower and resources available at Metra’s rail yard shops at an estimated cost of between $6,000 to $7,000 for all four station installations. The agency is also working to explore ways to provide free Wi-Fi service in waiting areas at its downtown stations.