SouthWest Service #827 leaves Union Station in 2011.
|Daily ridership||9,600 (Avg. Weekday 2014)|
|Owner||Norfolk Southern Railway (Leased to Metra)|
|Operator(s)||Metra, Norfolk Southern Railway|
|Track length||40.6 miles|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The Southwest Service (SWS) is a Metra commuter rail line, running southwest from Union Station in downtown Chicago, Illinois, to Manhattan, Illinois. Metra does not refer to its lines by color, but the timetable accents for the SouthWest Service line are "Banner Blue," for the Wabash Railroad's Banner Blue passenger train. The trackage is owned by Metra north of a junction with the Belt Railway of Chicago at Loomis Boulevard, and is leased from Norfolk Southern Railway south of the junction (NS has trackage rights over Metra's portion).
The line south of the curve at the east end of the section aligned with 75th Street was built by the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway, which opened in 1880 to Chicago. That curve was a junction with the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad, of which the Wabash owned one-fifth, and used to reach Dearborn Station in downtown Chicago. Commuter service from Chicago began as early as 1893, with trains running as far south as Orland Park, and by 1909, the service had been extended with several trains operating as far south as Manhattan. The level of service deteriorated in the 1930s, with commuter operations effectively reduced to one train in each direction making local stops from Chicago to Decatur. By 1964, the once daily Chicago–Decatur trains were cut back to Orland Park.
After several reorganizations the Wabash Railroad was leased by the Norfolk and Western Railway on October 16, 1964.:145 The single round trip continued under the new ownership, who named the train the Orland Park Cannonball. On May 1, 1971, Amtrak assumed control of most intercity passenger trains in the United States. On this date all intercity services operating into and out of Chicago were either routed into Union Station or discontinued, leaving the single Orland Park Cannonball as the only train to still use Dearborn Station. Dearborn Station closed, but the commuter train continued to use a small platform and track on the property until 1976 when it relocated to Union Station, via a new connection at Alton Junction.:71
The Regional Transportation Authority began to subsidize the service in 1978. N&W merged with Southern Railway to form the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982, and for the next decade the line was known as the Norfolk Southern Line (NS). The RTA closed the Western Avenue station on May 15, 1984, as part of a cost reduction plan which saw the closure of twelve other lightly used stations and the removal of ticket agents from an additional seventeen stations across the system. On June 1, 1993 Metra took over operations and renamed it the SouthWest Service.
The rail line expansion project, which includes 11 miles (18 km) of new track and at least two additional train stations, was completed (except for the Laraway Road station) in January 2006. The number of trains per day increased from 16 to 30, 15 in each direction. For years, Pace operated Route 835, whose bus service enhanced the limited train service in the SouthWest Service corridor. With the rail service expansion, ridership on route 835 became so poor that Pace eliminated it on August 17, 2007.
Metra started Saturday service on March 21, 2009, with six trains between Union Station and Manhattan.
SouthWest Service trains will shift from Union Station to LaSalle Street Station with the reconfiguration of the 75th Street Corridor under the auspices of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE). This will happen no earlier than 2025 when construction is scheduled for completion. Additional mainline trackage will also be built between LaSalle St Station and 74th to handle the increase in traffic. LaSalle St Station will also be expanded. This would relieve congestion at Union Station and improve reliability for the SouthWest Service, as well as allowing more trains to run in each direction.
As of February 5, 2018[update], the last time Metra revised the timetable, the SouthWest Service has fifteen round-trips per day on weekdays and three on Saturday. There is no Sunday/holiday service. All Saturday trains run through to Manhattan. Of the weekday trains, one terminates at Orland Park 153rd Street, two at Manhattan, and the remainder at Orland Park 179th Street.
From 2006 to early 2018, a third weekday train (a midday one) terminated at Manhattan. Due to lack of ridership as well as service cuts, this train became a short-turn to Orland Park 179th Street effective Spring 2018.
The Laraway Road and Manhattan stations see a combined ridership of under 60 people daily, making them two of the least-used stations on Metra's system.
Since 2014 annual ridership has declined from 2.6 million to 2.4 million, an overall decline of 9%.
Amtrak trains: California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service, Illini and Saluki, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Lake Shore Limited, Pere Marquette, Wolverine, Blue Water, and Lincoln Service
Metra trains: Milwaukee District / North, Milwaukee District / West, BNSF Railway, Heritage Corridor, and North Central Service
CTA "L" trains: Blue Line (at Clinton), Brown Line, Orange Line, Pink Line, and Purple Line (at Quincy)
CTA buses: 1 Bronzeville/Union Station, 7 Harrison, J14 Jeffery Jump, 19 United Center Express, 28 Stony Island, 56 Milwaukee, 60 Blue Island/26th, 120 Ogilvie/Streeterville Express, 121 Union/Streeterville Express, 124 Navy Pier, 125 Water Tower Express, 126 Jackson, 128 Soldier Field Express, 130 Museum Campus, 151 Sheridan, 156 LaSalle, 157 Streeterville/Taylor, 192 University of Chicago Hospitals Express
Pace buses: 755 Plainfield/IMD/West Loop Express
Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach: Chicago-Madison and Chicago-Rockford (via Van Galder), Chicago-Louisville (via Greyhound)
|N/A||Dearborn Station||Closed 1976, service switched to Union Station|
|N/A||47th Street||Closed between 1976 and 1984|
|B||Englewood||Closed between 1976 and 1984; Flag stop|
|Halsted||Closed between 1976 and 1984|
|Racine||Closed between 1976 and 1984|
|Ashland||Closed between 1976 and 1984|
|Western Avenue||Closed May 1984|
CTA buses: 52A South Kedzie and 79 79th
|D||Oak Lawn||Oak Lawn||Connections:|
Pace buses: 381 95th Street, 395 95th/Dan Ryan CTA Station/UPS Hodgkins, 769 Palos Heights/Oak Lawn-Soldier Field Express, and 774 Palos Heights/Oak Lawn-Guaranteed Rate Field Express
|Chicago Ridge||Chicago Ridge||Connections:|
Pace buses: 384 Narragansett - Ridgeland
Pace buses: 385 87th/111th/127th and 386 South Harlem
|Palos Heights||Palos Heights||Connections:|
Pace buses: 769 Palos Heights/Oak Lawn-Soldier Field Express and 774 Palos Heights/Oak Lawn-Guaranteed Rate Field Express
|E||Palos Park||Palos Park|
|Southmore||Palos Park/Orland Park||Closed between 1976 and 1984; Flag stop|
|Orland Park 143rd Street||Orland Park|
|Orland Park 153rd Street|
|F||Orland Park 179th Street|
|G||Brisbane||New Lenox||Will||Closed 1962|
|H||Laraway Road||No off-peak service|
|I||Manhattan||Manhattan||No off-peak service|
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