CHICAGO — Metra unveiled a ridership campaign Tuesday highlighting the precautions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ‘My Metra’ campaign aims to remind riders of the essential role Metra plays in many individuals’ lives, while emphasizing measures such as a mask requirement, sanitized stations and trains as well as allocated room for physical distancing.
Metra ridership is at around 10% of its’ level in normal years, as riders largely stopped using the commuter rail line in March, coinciding with Illinois’ stay-at-home order.
“The thrust of this effort is to tell our customers that we’re ready for them when they’re ready for us,” Metra CEO Jim Derwinski said.
Yearly ridership previously topped out at 76 million in 2018.
Metra officials say the campaign emphasizes their reliability and safety, mentioning the service has a 95% on-time rate and is 15 times safer than driving.
The new multimedia campaign aims to reach riders across television, radio, billboards, and social media, with emphasis placed on safety in the campaign.
New air filters have been added to trains, replacing the air on cars 15 times an hour, along with touchless hand sanitizer dispensers and touch-free riding using the Ventra app.
Along with new protocols, Metra has introduced a ridership dashboard, allowing passengers to see the number of people using each train to encourage distancing.
Until downtown Chicago businesses resume normal operations however, the demand will likely remain low for quite some time.
“I just don’t need to ride anymore. Everyone’s working from home,” former Metra rider Jack Pritchett said.
Metra is projecting nearly $500 million in lost passenger revenues combining 2020 and 2021. As federal coronavirus aid keeps Metra afloat for now, they will require more help to survive the downturn in ridership.
“Clearly we’re going to need more in assistance and funding,” Derwinski said.
The commuter rail line hopes the extensive measures of cleanliness give many of their former riders the peace of mind to return.