RTA study identifies costs, and potential local funding strategies, for improvements along Metra North Central Service

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) recently completed a study of potential service improvements along Metra’s North Central Service (NCS) line and the feasibility of various funding mechanisms to support those improvements.

The RTA partnered with the Village of Mundelein, the Lake County Transportation Alliance, and a steering committee made up of representatives from 17 other communities along the rail line to complete the NCS Corridor Analysis and Implementation Study. After budget-related service cuts to the line in 2017, the Village of Mundelein applied for technical assistance through the RTA’s Community Planning program for this project. This study was completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in temporary changes to the NCS schedule.

NCS improvements could advance local and regional multi-modal and transit-oriented development goals, but fiscal constraints require innovation and collaboration. This study is a productive first step to understand the scope and bring together leaders from along the corridor to discuss solutions.

The study identifies three possible scenarios for potential service improvements including a range of additional weekend or weekday trains. Each scenario includes estimates of capital, maintenance, and net annual operations costs, as well as analysis of funding mechanisms. Further study will be necessary to determine the level of demand for expanded NCS service.

While traditional federal funding for any of the scenarios would be unlikely, the study describes innovative local funding options that could be explored as part of a multijurisdictional partnership. If successful, the basics of the funding model could be applicable in the future along other transit lines.