Metra and Regional Transit

Metra line to Chicago.

Metra line to Chicago.

Regional transit is something I have kept an eye on, but never before commented on the subject.  This past weekend, however, I decided to try using the Metra commuter line to travel to Chicago.  What a great experience!  I needed to get downtown Chicago and did not have any free parking, so driving was impractical.  Even more, traffic near O’Hare makes me furious (sitting in stop-and-go traffic is the worst), especially when there is plenty homework to read.  So on the train, I compiled a list of pros and cons of regional transit:


  1. Fast.  We passed a lot of cars on congested streets.  It took a little over 3 hours total to get from Madison to Chicago, but that is not much longer than it usually takes me when traffic is bad.
  2. Cheap.  $8.05 on a weekday, $5 on a weekend, $3 for a 2 day parking pass.  I can afford that.
  3. Efficient.  Finished quite a bit of reading during the 2 hours on the train.  Multitasking!
  4. Easy.  I arrived at the station 5 minutes before the scheduled departure.  It was right on time – and no need to buy a ticket early, they sell them on the train.
  5. Met my goals.  No parking issues at all and got me right downtown!


  1. Harvard, IL is as close as the train gets to Madison.  Actually, this is a plus because the drive to Harvard is beautiful.
  2. No wireless (I didn’t check).
  3. Screaming kids.  This was about to be an issue, but the children quieted down.  And for a $5 ticket, I won’t complain.

My pro/con list obviously ignores the societal benefits and costs of regional transit.  Trains are by no means free of any costs, but perhaps they do hold potential for making it easier to get around the Midwest.

I forgot to add as a pro, the trains allow bicycles.


About Nate

Graduate student at University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am studying public policy, administration, and law. More importantly, I am getting the La Follette School Student Association out and onto the blogosphere. Here we come!
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2 Responses to Metra and Regional Transit

  1. DB says:

    One reason I’m hoping Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics: it would speed up construction of the Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago high-speed train. If they put a station by Miller Park (which would be incredibly easy because the line runs right next to the stadium) we’d probably go to one game a week. Bonus points if someone puts together a “tailgate train.”

  2. Your post is really informative and especially great for someone new to Madison who is looking forward to a weekend in Chicago.

    In response to the comment on high speed rails, I’m really disappointed in what I have heard to far. I was ecstatic about a bullet train (especially something like what they have in Japan), but word has come down that the trains will go about 90+ mph rather than 140-180. I think if the US wants people to really use the transportation, they need the cultivate the culture for it, just like they did with cars. Going halfway and producing lines that don’t have more pros than cons isn’t going to work.

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