Annual Ridership

Metra provided nearly 82.3 million rides in 2013, which is 0.9% favorable to the budgeted forecast of 81.5 million rides. When compared to 2012, 2013 experienced a 1.2% increase in ridership. The year 2013 featured a series of events that impacted commuter rail ridership (negatively and positively) in the six-county Northeastern Illinois region, including relatively stable gas prices and modest increase in employment and office occupancy. Other major factors included special events in downtown Chicago, including the Blackhawks Stanley Cup Parade and Rally, the completion of area roadway construction projects, weather, and the change to Metra’s ten-ride ticket policy. This report identifies the recent trends in commuter rail ridership in the region and the underlying influences behind Metra ridership for 2013.

The 82.3 million passenger trips reported in 2013 is 1.2% higher compared to 2012, and is the fifth highest ridership in Metra’s history. Since reaching a low of 56.5 million passenger trips in 1983, the year prior to Metra’s first year of existence, commuter rail ridership has increased by 46%, averaging 1.5% growth per year. The following chart shows reported annual system ridership (including free rides) from 1983 through 2013.

For the full report including a graphical representation, click here.

Annual Ridership by Line
All but three rail lines experienced increases in ridership (reported plus free trips) in 2013 compared to 2012. The North Central Service Line’s ridership decreased by -0.3%, the Milwaukee District-West Line’s ridership decreased by -0.4%, and the Metra Electric District’s ridership decreased by -1.2%. The remaining Metra lines saw increases in ridership (reported plus free trips) in 2013 when compared to 2012: 3.1% on the Heritage Corridor Line, 3.0% on the Union Pacific-West Line and the SouthWest Service Line, 2.4% on the Union Pacific-North Line, 2.1% on the Milwaukee District-North Line, 1.4% on the Union Pacific-Northwest Line, and 1.2% on the BNSF Line and the Rock Island District Line. The figures below and on the next page show the ridership trends for each rail line since 1983.

On-Time Performance
System reliability over the past several years has tracked at a very high level, usually exceeding 95%. On-time performance of all trains averaged 95.4% in 2013, exceeding the 2008-2012 average on-time performance of 95.3%.1 Nonetheless, freight train interference accounted for 12.4% of Metra delays in 2013, compared to 11.6% in 2012. Metra experienced 1,097 weather delays in 2013, compared to the annual average of 1,084 weather delays between 2008 and 2010. The 2008-2012 average reflects the high amount of weather delays caused by the Groundhog Day Blizzard that took place on February 1-2, 2011, which alone resulted in over 850 delays. 

Metra’s on-time performance in June of 2013 was adversely impacted by multiple days of severe weather, which caused train delays due to high winds, excessive heat, and the washout of the UP-NW McHenry Branch Line. Also in June, the Blackhawks rally on June 28 caused numerous passenger loading delays as the system carried approximately 40% more riders than normal. On-time performance in July was impacted by heavy passenger loads from the Taste of Chicago. In December, on-time performance was impacted by above normal snowfall and below-normal temperatures.

Passenger Miles & Average Trip Length
Each year, Metra calculates the number of passenger miles traveled and the average trip length by line. In 2013, the total number of passenger miles increased by 0.7% when compared to 2012. As shown in the chart below, the average trip length decreased slightly from 2012 to 2013 at 22.45 miles. (Free senior and circuit-permit trips and the South Shore are not included.)

Average Fare
Each year, Metra calculates the average fare paid by fare-paying passengers (The average fare calculation does not include free senior or Benefit Access/Circuit-Permit trips.) In 2013, the average fare increased 3% compared to 2012 as a result of the 11.1% ten-ride increase approved in December 2012. The following table shows the change in average fare paid from 2012 to 2013 for each rail line.

Ridership by Service Period
The average daily passenger loads for each service period in 2013 indicate that Metra provided nearly 1.6 million rides per week. The peak period/peak direction remained Metra’s largest market, with about 70% of all trips taken in this service period. The charts below display the shares of the average weekly passenger loads for 2003 and 2013. Off-peak period ridership in 2013 significantly increased by 30% over the ten-year period, while peak period ridership has decreased by -3% over the same time period. The largest percentage growth in off-peak ridership has occurred in the reverse commute service periods (57%), and on Sundays (42%) and Saturdays (31%).

Type of Tickets
Metra offers a wide array of ticket types including monthly, ten-ride, one way, and weekend tickets. In addition, one-way tickets can be purchased on-board the train from the conductor or at a station with a ticket agent. The table below shows total ticket sales by type from 2011 through 2013. The number of monthly tickets bought in 2013 increased by 7.5% compared to 2012. Station one-way ticket sales and conductor one-way ticket sales increased by 10.2% and 0.4%, respectively, while weekend ticket sales increased by 7.2% in 2013 compared to 2012. Ten-ride ticket sales were down -18.9% in 2013 compared to 2012. The increase in monthly, station one-way, and weekend ticket sales, along with the significant decrease in ten-ride ticket sales, is attributable to the ten-ride ticket policy change that changed the tenride ticket price from nine to ten equivalent one-way fares, effective February 1, 2013.