Editorial: The Metra in DeKalb, a no-brainer


Amber Siegel

People hanging around at a train station with Mission III waiting outside the Metra train. The discussion to extend the line to DeKalb has circulated more than once.

The DeKalb City Council’s recent approval of a transportation study will determine if the Union Pacific West Metra line should extend to DeKalb. The answer seems clear: The train line’s extension would be beneficial to NIU and its student population.

A study by Sam Schwartz Consulting LLC, which was approved Jan. 9, will cost the city $98,379 to assess the current traffic patterns of DeKalb commuters and determine the feasibility of extending the line into town.

The discussion around utilizing the line that already runs through DeKalb is not new. A metra stop has been needed within the city for a long time.

In October 1990, the NIU Student Association Mass Transit Board was in talks with former DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow about their wishes to bring a Metra stop to the city.

Due to a Metra extension project’s high costs at the time, Sparrow was supportive of the idea but said, “To date, I don’t envision that we are going to get anything done.”

33 years after, there is a much needed backing for an expansion of the line.

According to Joe King, associate director for Institutional Communications, roughly half of NIU students are commuters.

The nearest operating commuter train station is in Elburn, over a half an hour drive from NIU’s campus. NIU provides a valuable shuttle service to the station. The shuttle to the Elburn station currently costs $4 for NIU students, takes approximately 45 minutes one way and operates approximately 10 round trips on weekdays. 

According to geographic data of NIU’s in-state student population from the Division of Institutional Research and Analytics Department, 26% of in-state students are from Cook County, 12% are from DuPage County, 11% are from Kane County and 12% are from DeKalb County.

These statistics mean the Metra line extending into DeKalb could serve a total of 61% of in-state students, regardless of whether they commute or live on and around campus.

The line’s extension could mean worthwhile accessibility to Chicago for students living in the DeKalb area, whether for entertainment or for ease of travel home to visit family and friends.

The Metra train station can ease the stress for students who travel from home or want to safely get into the city.

Northern Star conducted a poll asking readers if it would be beneficial to them if DeKalb extended the Union Pacific West Metra line to NIU. Here are the results:

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Would you benefit if DeKalb brought a Metra Train Station to NIU?


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