Anyone who's ridden both the Red Line Dan Ryan Branch of the CTA and the Rock Island District Branch of Metra may have noticed that METRA IS FASTER. Every time I have timed the Rock Island from 35th Street to LaSalle it has taken at most 8 minutes, including time spent pulling into the station. Sox-35th to Jackson on the Red Line takes over 10 minutes regularly because of the maintenance on the Red Line.
What makes this so irritating is the fact that the CTA supposedly modernized the Dan Ryan branch over 5 years ago, yet failed to fix a long stretch of their trackage. If they had used good judgement, they would have realized that stations are only as useful as the tracks that serve them. If the train slows down to a dead crawl, people are going to start to get annoyed and look for faster methods of travel. The same goes for the north branch of the Red Line, where the trackage is showing its age yet the CTA undertook a massive renovation of Howard. Any significant disruption to the north side of the Red Line will undoubtably cause patronage at Howard to drop.
Besides the time advantage the Rock Island has, it also has a price advantage as well. Unlike the weekly and monthly passes on the CTA that are only valid for a continuous period of time, Metra 10-ride passes are valid for one year from their purchase date; so infrequent Metra riders who want a discount can get 10 rides for only $18.30 between 35th and LaSalle. That's only $1.83 a ride, 42¢ less than the CTA rail fare.
25¢ less, faster, and cleaner: I'm sticking with the Rock Island for the foreseeable future.