Metra OKs bikes on trains
Public hearings set for 5 percent fare hike proposal
By Virginia Groark
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 21, 2005, 1:28 PM CDT
Cyclists will be able to take their bikes on Metra trains throughout the year, following the commuter railroad board's unanimous vote today to make a popular five-month trial permanent.
Originally, the board agreed to run the trial until Oct. 30. The agency's staff was to then evaluate the experiment and recommend if it should resume in January.
But Metra Executive Director Philip Pagano told the board today that after he realized bicycling enthusiasts wanted the program to be year-round, he decided to recommend that the board extend it.
Under the program, bikes are allowed on weekday trains arriving in Chicago after 9:30 a.m. and departing the city before 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m.
Bicycles are allowed on all weekend trains unless a blackout date is in effect—for example, on Saturday, Nov. 19, the day of this year's North Michigan Avenue holiday lights parade.
Also, bicycles will not be allowed on trains on Halloween, which falls on a Monday this year, or the Wednesday before and the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Pagano said the program has been a success.
"We've had hardly any incidents," he said. "It seems, quite frankly, that it has moved pretty smoothly."
According to a Metra report, the number of people taking bikes on trains has steadily grown since the program began June 1. In August, the most recent month for which data are available, trains carried 1,916 bikes, up from 723 in June.
Sundays have been the most popular bicycle-travel day, with an average of 47 bikes carried on trains those days in August, the report said.
In other business today, the Metra board approved a series of public hearings on a proposed 2006 budget that would increase fares by 5 percent.
Citing skyrocketing fuel costs and increased security expenses, officials have proposed a fare hike to take effect in February. It would be the first since 2002 and the fifth in Metra's 21-year history.