To enter the contest, visit . Only one entry is allowed per individual. Winners will receive a special ticket good for two rides anywhere. Tickets are valid for 90 days, and drawings run through June 3.
Asked how certain they were that an untapped market exists, Metra Chairman Brad O'Halloran said many people are unfamiliar with the system. "They think it's a hassle, or it's kind of scary or they don't know anything about trains," he said.
Officials said they were certain once people experience a train ride, they will convert to fare-paying customers. As to how the agency will measure the effectiveness of the PR blitz, "in any good marketing campaign, we track the dollars we invest against the outcome and measure it," Clifford said.
The dip in ridership in 2012 is partly related to the hot summer, scaling back of downtown Chicago events and the NATO summit, officials said.
Metra also has raised fares significantly twice in the last two years; rates spiked by 29 percent and 30 percent for monthly and 10-ride pass holders, respectively, in February 2011, and this month 10-ride passes rose by 11 percent.
Other marketing efforts this year will include targeting reverse commuters — people who travel from the city to the suburbs for jobs.