Metra provided 82.3 million passenger trips last year to commuters in the six-county region, a 1.2 percent increase over 2012 and the fifth-highest total in the agency’s history. The figures, based on ticket sales, were presented Friday to the Metra Board of Directors.
Since dipping to 56.5 million passenger trips in 1983, when Metra was formed, the number of commuter rail riders in the region has jumped 46 percent, averaging 1.5 percent growth per year. Metra posted ridership gains on eight of its 11 lines in 2013.
Some contributors to 2013’s ridership gains include a modest increase in employment and office occupancy in Chicago’s Central Business District. Special events such as the Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade and rally ̶ a day when a record 425,000 rides were provided ̶ also contributed to ridership gains in 2013. During the Blackhawks event, Metra sold 85,000 special event tickets accounting for 170,000 rides.
The busiest route continues to be the BNSF Railway, between Aurora and Chicago Union Station, which saw 16.6 million trips in 2013. Ridership on the BNSF rose 1.2 percent in 2013 compared to 2012.
The rail line posting the highest percentage increase in ridership in 2013 was the Heritage Corridor, which experienced a 3.1 percent increase over 2012, providing more than 703,000 trips. Other lines reporting significant gains in 2013 included a 3 percent gain on the SouthWest Service at 2.6 million trips and the UP West Line at 8.3 million trips. Metra’s other two UP Lines also reported gains in 2013, with the UP North Line reporting a 2.4 percent increase at 9.3 million trips and the UP Northwest Line gaining 1.4 percent at 11.2 million.
For the remaining lines, the Milwaukee District North increased 2.1 percent to 7 million and the Rock Island District went up by 1.4 percent to 8.6 million while the Metra Electric, the Milwaukee West and NCS lines posted decreases of 1.2 percent to 9.6 million, 0.4 percent to 6.8 million and 0.3 percent to 1.7 million respectively.
While 70 percent of Metra’s ridership occurs during the morning and evening weekday rush hours, Metra has increased its marketing outreach targeting both the commuter and discretionary travel markets. In 2013, marketing campaigns included Metra Makes Life Easier and Back-to-Work, Back-to-School, Back-to-Metra campaign that targeted traditional commuting markets as well as theTraincation campaign targeting discretionary travel during the summer months. Metra intends to pursue similar marketing strategies in 2014 with the goal of expanding its ridership base.