The Value and Impact of the Metra Rail System in the Chicago Region

by Crayton Caudill for SUST 210

Every weekday, tens of thousands of suburban men and women hop on a train bound for Chicago. The Metra system transports over 300,000 passengers to Chicago per day in a cost efficient and environmentally friendly manner each day, many of whom are making work trips to the city using the train system. To these riders the benefit may just be the convenience of not driving, but to the whole Chicago area it is creating a healthier environment and helping sustain the economy.

Crayton image 1The country as a whole is rapidly burning oil and emitting carbon dioxide, with transportation being responsible for more than two-thirds and a third of those pollutions, respectively. The Metra system is reported to have saved passengers over 34 million gallons of gasoline every year, which greatly reduces the negative impact that the use of oil and emission of carbon dioxide has on the environment.

The use of the Metra in early morning rush hour frees up the roads leading into the city, which in turn decreases the emission of harmful substances due to traffic jams as well as decreases the number of hours people spend unproductively in their vehicles. Although a Metra train emits more carbon dioxide per mile than a car does, the train is carrying hundreds of people versus the car’s couple of passengers. A Metra train, per passenger, emits 7.3 times less harmful substances than a car and 8.6 times less than a SUV.

Owning a car, driving it, and parking it in the city is an atrocious expense. With the Metra system in place, some families can avoid the purchase of an additional car and others avoid the added expense of fuel and parking. As reported by the Environment Illinois Research & Education Center, a family can save over $11,000 every year by riding the train to work. This, in turn, can help stimulate local economic activity by giving families more money to put into other areas of the Chicago-area economy.

The Englewood Fly-over Metra bridge (photo: Washington Times)

The Englewood Fly-over Metra bridge (photo: Washington Times)

The suburbs and city of Chicago are constantly working to improve the Metra system to make it better for the area as a whole. Recently, the $142 million Englewood “flyover”, a RR bridge, was completed to eliminate congestion between Metra and Amtrak trains every day. This will in turn reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and burning of fuel from idling trains and make the transportation more cost and time efficient.

Chicago and its surrounding suburbs have created a one-of-a-kind transportation system that has and will continue to benefit the environment and economy. The tens of thousands of suburban commuters who chose to ride the Metra everyday are greatly reducing the use of oil and emission of carbon dioxide into the air, making the area a better place to live in for all.


Each week during the Fall 2014 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 210 Sustainable Future and SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.


About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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