Lipinski Leads 22 Elected Officials in Opposing Proposed Cuts on Metra's Southwest Service Line

Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) led 22 elected officials in sending a letter to Metra expressing strong opposition to its proposal to reduce weekday service and cut weekend service entirely on the Southwest Service line. Congressman Lipinski led the way in establishing long-sought weekend service on the line more than two years ago.

“As elected officials representing communities along Metra’s SouthWest Service line, we write to express our strong opposition to the service reductions proposed during the agency’s July and August Board meetings,” the letter to Metra Executive Director and CEO Alexander Clifford states. “In particular, we are concerned about Metra’s consideration of disproportionate cuts to SWS, including reductions in weekday service and the termination of weekend trains. These measures would yield very few savings in the context of the Fiscal Year 2012 budget shortfall and would likely disenfranchise many riders. Therefore, we strongly urge Metra to reconsider the proposed SWS service cuts and continue to work with us to ensure an adequate level of service along the line.”

Metra has said it faces a budget gap of $100 million. Having rejected a proposal to implement unprecedented service cuts that would have saved only 8 percent of its budget shortfall, Metra Directors have since been presented with a proposal that eliminates weekend service on three lines, including SWS, and eliminates weekday service between 179th Street and Manhattan on two trains. Under that plan, Southwest Service riders would be unfairly targeted, losing all six Saturday trains plus some weekday service while eight other lines would see no cuts whatsoever. Yet Metra has provided no justification for singling out Southwest Service for cuts that would save less than one-half of one percent of Metra’s budget deficit.

In a presentation to Metra Directors in July, staffers listed several reasons not to eliminate weekend service system-wide, stating “regular weekend passengers would feel disenfranchised,” while “savings would be minimal” and the “ability to attract new riders through weekend service would be lost.” That certainly holds true for the Southwest Service line.

“Given the importance of Southwest Service to communities in southwest Cook County and northeast Will County, I’m going to continue working to preserve weekend and weekday service,” Congressman Lipinski said. “I was pleased to be able to inaugurate weekend service in 2009, and I know it is appreciated, utilized, and supported by many people. This letter represents a strong show of support for the Southwest Service line, and I hope Metra listens carefully.”

Signatories include Alsip Mayor Patrick Kitching, Burbank Mayor Harry Klein, Bridgeview Mayor Steven Landek, Chicago 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, Chicago 18th Ward Ald. Lona Lane, Chicago Ridge Mayor Eugene Siegel, Evergreen Park Mayor James J. Sexton, Hickory Hills Mayor Michael Howley, Hometown Mayor Kevin Casey, Homer Glen Mayor James Daley Jr., Manhattan Mayor William A. Borgo, Chicago 23rd Ward Ald. Michael Zalewski, New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann, Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann, Orland Hills Mayor Kyle Hastings, Orland Park Mayor Daniel J. McLaughlin, Palos Heights Mayor Robert Straz, Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney, Tinley Park Mayor Edward Zabrocki, and Worth Mayor Randy Keller.

(September 14, 2011)