Metra adds tool to track occupancy rate on trains

News Wire Digest second section for July 8: Two more counties to join Montana passenger rail agency; Canadian legislators call for increase to VIA remote service in Ontario
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Inbound and outbound Metra trains meet at Elmwood Park, Ill., in March. Metra is testing an online dashboard to let passengers know about the level of ridership on its trains.
TRAINS: David Lassen

More Wednesday rail news in brief:

Metra tests ridership dashboard

Metra has joined the list of commuter railroads providing online ridership information to help passengers make decisions on finding less-crowded trains. The ridership dashboard, a test program, will classify trains according to four levels of occupancy: low (green), with an average of less than 50 riders per car, meaning passengers should be able to find a seat at least one row from another rider; some ridership (yellow), with 50 to 70 riders per car, allowing passengers to ride without a passenger in the adjacent seat; moderate (orange), with 70-100 per car, meaning passengers may have to stand to avoid sitting next to a passenger, and high (red), more than 100 per car, meaning limited space will be available. When train ridership reaches the moderate level, Metra will add cars to the train or trains to the schedule to promote social distancing. The dashboard is available here.

Two more counties to join Montana passenger rail authority, bringing total to seven
Two more counties have agreed to join the agency looking to return Amtrak service to Montana’s southern tier, bringing to seven the number of members in the planned Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority. The Missoula Current reports Gallatin and Broadwater counties have both indicated they will join the organization; Gallatin, with its county seat in Bozeman, is the third most populous county in the state and the second most populous on the former North Coast Hiawatha route after Missoula County, which has spearheaded the effort to form the authority. The new agency will lobby and seek grants for the restoration of service on the route, which last saw a train in 1979.

Ontario legislators call on VIA to increase remote rail service
A group of Ontario legislators have called on VIA Rail Canada to increase the frequency of its Sudbury-White River, Ontario, remote RDC-car service, saying the current once-a-week schedule means significant hardship for residents of areas not accessible by road. In an open letter to VIA CEO Cynthia Garneau, the six members of Ontario’s Provincial Parliament say the reduction of service because of the COVID-19 pandemic, from three round trips weekly to one, mean their constituents must spend a week in a hotel in Sudbury when they travel for groceries and other supplies, arriving on Sunday and not being able to return until Saturday. In the other direction, those with guesthouses along the route cannot book guests on consecutive weeks, since guests must currently arrive on Saturday and leave on Sunday. The legislators are asking for two round trips weekly, saying it would “instantly improve our constituent’s quality of life.”


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