Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby ryanch » Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:58 pm

Tadman wrote:Uggh... Much as I love the idea of ticket vending machines, we seem to brutally f****up the concept here in Chicago.

First, you have Ventra. "Ventra" is the worst dumbest most awful farecard system I've ever seen. For some reason I can't store my credit card so I have to go to Walgreens every few weeks and recharge. It also doesn't scan very well. It's also a debit card, because hey, let's give 'em another way to steal my identity. Nevermind that Chicago Card worked great, they "aren't making them anymore" according to the CTA, despite the same system still in use in Washington DC. Asses...

Then you have the Metra ticket vending machines. Usually they're out of order or out of ticket stock, leading you to wait in a mammoth line, give up when your train is about to leave, and pay the $3 penalty on board. Last week I got a talking-to from the conductor. When I told him it was pay $3 and be on time for dinner or save $3 and miss my train (and dinner with my SO and her parents...) I figured it was quite a bargain for peace of mind. TLDR: Metra vending machines suck almost as much as Ventra.

As for Metra engineer pay, I'm curious what a class I engineer would make given the same set of hours and cost of living. That might draw a better picture of the pay parity.

I've never had a problem with a Metra ticket vending machine. And never seen a mammoth line. Sorry about your bad luck.

This sentence was in the story linked above. Perhaps you only meant freight engineers, but I'm assuming BNSF and UP don't pay vastly more to their commuter engineers than to their freight engineers. At any rate, this is the private sector comparable, and it seems to show Metra is being fairly spartan.:
>Metra engineers, conductors and their assistants averaged $85,000 a person last year compared to $112,000 for peers at Chicago area BNSF and Union Pacific operations, Orseno said.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby ryanch » Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:12 pm

Tadman wrote:I figured that was the case, and too bad the newspaper isn't willing to cover issues like that.

My question is part of the bigger question of "what are we really paying for here???". When you just state someone's takehome pay, it doesn't cover what their cost of living is, hours worked, rate in comparison to others in the trade (IE class I or Amtrak), time away from home, etc...

I honestly have no opinion of the engineers' pay right now because the news hasn't really related the salary numbers in a meaningful way. If we found out a guy was taking home $100k for working 4h/day in the yard, that would be cause for alarm. If we found out an engineer was taking home $100k/year and working 80 hour weeks every week and living in downtown Chicago or NYC, that's underpaid.

Just a suggestion - you could try reading articles before complaining about them. Here's one relevant long passage from the article, though there is other context as well:

>The average $100,000-club conductor worked an extra 885 hours a year — the equivalent of 22 additional 40-hour workweeks — to take home at least six figures, the Sun-Times found. That boosted their average guaranteed pay level by 44 percent.

>And the average $100,000-club engineer worked 505 hours a year in extra time, producing a 27 percent pay bump.

>Weekend shifts and holidays are paid at straight time. And top scale kicks in at five years, so the big difference between a 25-year conductor or engineer and a 5-year one is the ability to pick more lucrative monthly shifts, based on seniority.

>Conductors and engineers also are paid from 79 cents to $1.40 for every mile traveled beyond 100 to 150 miles a day. Another large source of extra pay: extra duties, such as delivering mail, or working through the lunch hour.

By the way, is there anyone else who thinks Chris Robling, who got himself appointed as the Republican member of the Chicago Board of Elections while he was still in law school and has flipped from one no-work political spot to another ever since, has no business talking to the media about how much people who actually work get paid? A former high-paid RTA communications staffer who is 'shocked, shocked' at how much Metra staff get paid? Maybe if you'd been doing your job, Chris, you would have known long ago.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby sipes23 » Thu Nov 20, 2014 11:44 am

ryanch wrote:I've never had a problem with a Metra ticket vending machine. And never seen a mammoth line. Sorry about your bad luck.


Nor have I had any trouble with the ticket vending machines at North Western Station, but they're nowhere near as clear to use at the Ventra machines. And for all of the news about the horrors of Ventra, I've had good luck with it at the machine. I do seem to have to tap the card twice about half the time. It does stink when you're in a hurry.

As for what the conductors are being paid, I'm not too worried about that. They're doing a tough job that I'd want to be paid well for too, and let's not forget that they need to be paid well enough that all of that cash they handle goes where it is supposed to go.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby ryanch » Thu Nov 20, 2014 10:29 pm

sipes23 wrote:
ryanch wrote:I've never had a problem with a Metra ticket vending machine. And never seen a mammoth line. Sorry about your bad luck.


Nor have I had any trouble with the ticket vending machines at North Western Station, but they're nowhere near as clear to use at the Ventra machines. And for all of the news about the horrors of Ventra, I've had good luck with it at the machine. I do seem to have to tap the card twice about half the time. It does stink when you're in a hurry.

As for what the conductors are being paid, I'm not too worried about that. They're doing a tough job that I'd want to be paid well for too, and let's not forget that they need to be paid well enough that all of that cash they handle goes where it is supposed to go.

I mostly use and see the situation at the ticket machine at Ogilvie-North (ie, by the Metra Market). I've used the window at the main station, and never had a serious wait. Most months, I receive mine in the mail, but due to a quirk about the way transit checks work in my office, I have to buy my monthly 4 months/year, and usually do it at the downtown end of the trip.

I think the people citing issues all mentioned Union Station. Maybe the situation is worse there, perhaps because of a different ratio of by-mail customers to people picking up tix and 10-passes at the machines and windows. Are fewer stations staffed on the lines that feed into Union St.? That would also lead to greater demand at the station.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby Engineer Spike » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:31 am

I used to work in Suburban Services for BNSF. It was amazing how the passengers thought we got paid big bucks to walk down the aisle and punch tickets. They never thought about the rules and safety training. It was just a cake job to them.

At that point I was new, and about the junior guy who could hold a regular passenger job. One day a lady said that my job looked easy, and inquired how she could get one. At that point we were passing Eola Yard. I asked her if she saw the switchmen batting them out. I then told her that the yard was for her, since I was about the junior man in passenger service.

Another time a guy was complaining about our union wages. He was talking about wishing that Illinois was a right to work (right to scab) state. Too bad buddy, but railroads are exempt, as are government workers.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby Tadman » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:43 am

That's a great point. I think a lot of the general public thinks engineers are oversized car drivers and conductors are ticket punchers, rather than folks trained to operate heavy machinery in all kinds of weather. Put it this way - would you fly with an airline pilot making McDonald's wages? Heck no, you want a well-paid safe pilot keeping you in the air. On the railroad, you may not be a mile up, but you are on a fixed steel track moving a mile a minute toward the next train, and accidents are deadly when they happen. Ergo, we need top-notch people to operate these trains and good compensation is how you attract such folks. You can't find a guy who will memorize NORAC or whatever for minimum wage...
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby MACTRAXX » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:53 am

Tadman wrote:That's a great point. I think a lot of the general public thinks engineers are oversized car drivers and conductors are ticket punchers, rather than folks trained to operate heavy machinery in all kinds of weather. Put it this way - would you fly with an airline pilot making McDonald's wages? Heck no, you want a well-paid safe pilot keeping you in the air. On the railroad, you may not be a mile up, but you are on a fixed steel track moving a mile a minute toward the next train, and accidents are deadly when they happen. Ergo, we need top-notch people to operate these trains and good compensation is how you attract such folks. You can't find a guy who will memorize NORAC or whatever for minimum wage...


Tad: Great post - This should be a must read for anyone who thinks otherwise...MACTRAXX
EXPRESS TRAIN TO NEW YORK PENN STATION-NO JAMAICA ON THIS TRAIN-PLEASE STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING TRAIN DOORS
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby lstone19 » Thu Apr 02, 2015 9:12 am

Re Tadman's comment about airline pilots, they earn their salaries by having skills you hope they never have to use for real. As it's been said, a superior pilot uses his superior judgement to avoid demonstrating his superior skills.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby justalurker66 » Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:19 pm

On a good day crews do not need to demonstrate why they earn the big bucks. On a bad day people still complain, even though the crews are working their tails off to fix whatever made the day bad.

It is kind of like IT ... on a good day people wonder why there is an IT person or (heaven forbid) department. But when the networks and computers have a problem they want to get rid of the ID people for "letting" the problem occur.

Most of it comes down to simply not knowing what the job is ... and getting information that does not apply. For example, one may hear about the qualifications of a CTA type of train operator who drove a bus for a few months before becoming a train operator and think the same career path applies for all "trains".
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby Engineer Spike » Thu Apr 09, 2015 2:10 pm

Now that I'm an engineer, I can say that many times I need to use superior skill to avoid serious consequences too. Tasman me mentioned the NORAC rule book. It takes skill to memorize it. It takes even more to apply it. Now multiply that by three or more. I run over foreign lines, and have to memorize, and apply those rules too. I now am qualified on three rule books, and have been on twol others, which I have now let expire, since I don't go there anymore.

Now let's play chess with the air brakes. We haul more tonnage, at higher speeds than Mr. Westinghouse ever envisioned. It is a real game to avoid loosing the air, resulting in a run away, or stopping to recharge. The former has obvious results. Stopping causes delays, which are also management dislikes.

It takes a skilled touch to give passengers a smooth ride, especially cab car leading. Same with freight. What do you think would happen to an engineer who got a knuckle 40 cars back, during the dinkie parade?
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby MikeEspee » Sat Apr 11, 2015 8:52 am

I'm probably one of the youngest engineers in commuter service on the north side right now and I constantly get questions or smart remarks about how I must have got this job. None of it is anyone's business and I make that pretty clear to any passenger with a chip on their shoulder looking to pick a fight with a working stiff. I gotta tell you, though when my check comes in, the last thing I'm thinking about is those people. My check gets cashed and pays for my wife and son and myself to live. That's all that matters. We are overpaid but critics offer no tangible evidence to support that claim nor a solution? Fine. Here's one: Shut it down, pave over the rails and give everyone bikes. I'll find another RR job.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby CHTT1 » Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:49 am

Quite a chip on your shoulder, Espee. Do passengers really come up to you and make snide remarks about your pay? If they do, they're idiots. Of course, remember that they pay your salary through their fares and taxes.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby MikeEspee » Sun Apr 12, 2015 10:57 am

YES passengers do act inappropriately in the manner I described. Why would I say that if it didn't actually happen?

And I'm well aware of my employer's source of funding, thank you. But that fact doesn't make me a doormat for the passengers and their ignorance.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby Tadman » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:16 pm

Yeah I don't see how the source of funding is germaine to this discussion. I'm guessing Metra pay is somewhat like that of Class I railroaders' pay. If you don't want to pony up for market rates, the Metra staff would likely decamp for Class I work nearby. There are plenty of nearby terminals that don't include downtown railroading and the associated cost of living.
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Re: Metra Conductor and Engineer pay

Postby wilmette2008 » Sun Apr 19, 2015 3:32 pm

For people who whine, bitch, and moan about Metra Conductor and Engineer now is your chance to apply http://metrarail.com/content/metra/en/h ... ities.html you two can enjoy working nights, weekends, and holidays. Enjoy working outside in all weather,missing important family events, being on call 24/7,and anything ells I might have missed. Hey you may get good pay and a pension but it won't be as easy as you think. Thank you for listing, now stop complaining and apply.
Signed,
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But a commuter who appreciates the very hard work they do.
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