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The Signal

Metra's Holiday Travel Tips

(December 2, 2016) - 

The weather may be getting colder, but holiday festivities in Chicagoland are just warming up. For many, a trip downtown to see the sparkling lights and shop at holiday markets is an annual tradition.

Metra provides an easy solution for safe holiday travel in and out of the city. For those new to our system, we have pulled together some travel tips and helpful resources for riding the rails this holiday season.


How to Find Your Station

For many first-time riders, finding the Metra station closest to you is the first step. Visit the system map under our “Maps and Schedules” page, click the “search” tab on the right hand side, and then enter your address and distance range. A list of all the nearby stations as well as their distance from your location will appear.


Find Your Schedule

Once you know which station you will be departing from, you can find the line’s schedule on our “Maps and Schedules” page. Click on the line your station is on, select your departure station in the “From” section, your arrival station in the “To” section, the date you intend on traveling, and the time. Click “Go” and you’ll see a list of all trains operating on that line.

During the holidays, we often implement service changes in order to accommodate the most passengers, so we recommend checking these schedules every day you plan on traveling. The online schedules tool reflects the latest changes, so it is a more up-to-date resource than the printed timetables.

Please remember the times listed in the schedule are departure times. We recommend you allow extra travel time and arrive at least 10 minutes early to your station.



Metra does not manage parking at most stations. Rather, the municipality in which the station is located usually manages the lots.

To learn more about your station’s parking, click on your line under “Maps & Schedules,” click on the “Stations” tab, and select your station. Toward the bottom of that “Station” page you will find a map of parking lots that are color coded to indicate whether the lot is permit parking, daily parking, or ADA/other use parking. If you have any questions, a phone number for the parking lot manager is also listed under the map.

Parking fees can range from $1 to $5 per day depending on the station. Daily parking is usually paid for at pay stations or payment boxes at the time of parking.


Ticket Types

Metra offers a variety of ticket options and special fares to fit any need.

Weekend Passes are available for $8 and valid for unlimited travel on both Saturday and Sunday. Weekend Passes can be purchased in conjunction with our Family Fares program, which allows up to three children aged 11 years and younger to ride free with a fare-paying adult on weekends and select holidays.

One-Way Tickets are for travel from one station to another and are ideal for sporadic travel or when traveling alone. One-Way Tickets are valid up to 90 days after the purchase date and are nonrefundable.

Ten-Ride Tickets allow you to purchase 10 rides at once at a discount, which equates to the tenth ride being free. One 10-Ride Ticket can be used for multiple passengers, so it is perfect for group travelers riding together. A 10-Ride Ticket is valid up to a year after the purchase date.

Monthly Passes allow for unlimited travel during the month and are for daily commuters. These go on sale starting on the 20th of the month prior and are valid until the end of the month. They are non-transferrable and are for the exclusive use of the purchaser.


How to Purchase and Display Your Metra Ticket

You can purchase a Metra ticket in a variety of different ways. The most convenient way is through the Ventra App, which allows you to instantly display tickets on your smartphone through a Ventra account. The free app is available now to download in the App Store and Google Play.

When on the Ventra App, click on “Buy Metra Tickets,” select your train line as well as your origin and destination stations, and then click on the pass you need. Complete the purchase with a credit card or Ventra account, and you’re ready for travel.

Activate the pass only when you have boarded the train. You can find your purchased passes on the “My Metra Tickets” tab in the app. Click on the pass to activate it. Once your pass is activated, display it to your conductor and tap the screen to toggle the color between blue and orange. This will show your conductor that the ticket is active.

Paper tickets are also available at ticket offices and at vending machines. Most ticket offices are only open for the morning rush at outlying stations. If the ticket office is closed and there is no vending machine at your station, you may purchase a One-Way Ticket on the train from the conductor using cash. Be aware, however, that a $5 service fee will be applied if you purchase a ticket on the train when there was a ticket agent on duty or a vending machine available.


Quiet Cars

Metra’s Quiet Car rules are in effect on all weekday trains arriving in downtown terminals before 9 a.m. and departing downtown terminals between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. While our goal is to keep cars as quiet as possible, passengers should not expect the car to be completely silent.

  • On trains with six or more cars, the designated Quiet Cars are the second car from the cab car and the second car from the locomotive.
  • On trains with five or fewer cars, the designated Quiet Car is the second car from the engine only.
  • On the Metra Electric, the third car from the south end is the designated Quiet Car.
  • There is no Quiet Car on trains fewer than two cars.

Passengers in Quiet Cars are asked to:

  • Turn off the ringer on your cell phone and mute electronic devices.
  • If passengers must answer their phones, they should make it brief or move to the vestibule or another car.
  • Conversations between passengers are discouraged; If they must be held, they should be brief and in subdued voices.
  • If you are using headphones, please make sure the volume is low and other passengers cannot hear it.    


Know Before You Go: Service Updates

Notices of all service changes, delay information and restrictions in effect will be on display on our “Service Updates” page under the “Riding Metra” tab on the homepage. Before your trip, it is always helpful to navigate to the “Service Updates” page to learn more about how your travel may be affected or how service will be changed on particular days.

At the top of the page you will find a list of all train lines with any service alerts that may affect your travel. Below the list are several links to any service updates, schedule changes, construction notices and helpful information to keep you up to date.

In the days leading up to holidays or special events, service change notices will also be posted on the homepage under the “Good to Know” section for quick access.

Follow this advice and you’ll be ready for a trip to enjoy Chicagoland’s many holiday festivities!


Holiday Events in Chicagoland

Now that you know the basics for traveling on Metra, it’s time to start experiencing the magic of the season! With so many holiday events occurring in and around Chicago, a ride into the city on Metra will be a memorable experience for the whole family. Discover your next experience by clicking here

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