The study identifies three possible scenarios for potential Metra service improvements including a range of additional weekend or weekday trains. Metra

Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) recently completed a study of potential service improvements along Metra’s North Central Service (NCS) line and the feasibility of various funding mechanisms to support those improvements.

The RTA partnered with the Village of Mundelein, the Lake County Transportation Alliance, and a steering committee made up of representatives from 17 other communities along the rail line to complete the NCS Corridor Analysis and Implementation Study. Following budget-related service cuts to the line in 2017, the Village of Mundelein applied for technical assistance through the RTA’s Community Planning program for this project. This study was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in temporary changes to the NCS schedule.

As part of the study, a survey of NCS riders asked them to rank their most desired service improvements. Forty-four percent ranked the addition of weekend service as their top requested service improvement, while 39% of those who used the line frequently (five to 10 trips a week) said they would prefer more weekday commute service.

The study identifies three possible scenarios for potential service improvements including a range of additional weekend or weekday trains. Each scenario includes estimates of capital, maintenance, and net annual operations costs, as well as an analysis of funding mechanisms. Further study will be necessary to determine the level of demand for expanded NCS service.

The study also made important strides toward corridor-wide consensus to work together to improve transit access. Near the end of the study, steering committee members were asked to vote on whether or not their community’s leadership was committed to working in partnership with other municipalities and regional agencies to advance long-term NCS improvements — 21 of the 25 voting members said “Yes.”

While traditional federal funding for any of the scenarios would be unlikely, the study describes innovative local funding options that could be explored as part of a multijurisdictional partnership. If successful, the basics of the funding model could be applicable in the future along other transit lines.

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