Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by ExCon90
I get the impression that Metra has a first-rate communications relationship with its passengers. I used to see copies of On the Bi-Level and found it to be well written and informative. I imagine Metra makes a point of being forthcoming and cooperative with the media and achieves some favorable coverage as a result. Not living in the area, I'd be interested in seeing the opinions of regular riders.
  by doepack
Over the last decade, Metra has made what I perceive to be an honest attempt to be more forthcoming with its riders. It's especially true particularly in matters regarding the procuring of newer and more reliable equipment, and (more importantly) educating the public with more detail about the funding shortfalls that have led to several fare increases over the last few years, as well as the tenuous relationship between its budget and available funding mechanisms. And naturally, the On the bilevel newsletter has been the main platform through which these and other issues are discussed, and not just serving as a de facto complaint department for riders, although that is still present. Details regarding scheduling and operations are also more accessible, though in my view, there's still some mystery attached to certain aspects of such, perhaps out of necessity.

The increased transparency is also manifested in the monthly publication of detailed delay reports for all lines, where certain trains that fall below the 85% on time threshold for the month are listed, complete with the reasons why. The information is located on the "Metra and transparency" section of their website, and when they first started publishing this, I was a bit skeptical, thinking that they sort of made some of the info up as they went along. Thankfully, I have found this not to be the case, at least along the UP-W, the details given for the delays are based in fact, and roughly aligns with what is heard on my radio. Which makes me inclined to believe the details given for the other lines.

Now, if I could only see more women conductors on UP-W...
  by eolesen
Who works what line isn't driven by gender politics. It's driven by seniority....
  by doepack
Of course. Just being glib, no "wokeness" intended...
  by Engineer Spike
The article about working as a conductor are true. We had one conductor who had a bag of about 100 dollar coins, or maybe it was 200 fifty cent coins. Even just plain dollar bills seemed to cure this. The hiding in the bathroom trick is overdone. I’d keep watch to see if anyone went in, and watch where they went. In my time Metra only had a conductor and one brakeman. BN had two brakemen so it was easier to watch for things like that. We had a regular who only rode about three stations. It was something like Hinsdale to LaGrange. Every day she’d make a federal project of locating her ticket. She’d also fake having an asthma attack from catching the train. We were all wise to her. One day I told her that she ought to have her ticket ready. We were onto her game, and would rather miss five other tickets than have her so blatantly dodge us. I have also caught people trying to have sex and other strange things. Once a guy was between two cars smoking a joint.

The part about personal space used to make me mad sometimes. One time a guy had his briefcase on the seat next to him. He refused to move it for a lady who wanted to sit down. I got out by book of duplexes and started to cut another ticket. He asked what I was doing, and I told him that he had paid for one seat, not two. He then removed the briefcase, I canceled the ticket, and the lady sat down.

One other odd occurrence was how mad people got if they missed the train. BN was very strict about highballing on time. One guy was so mad that he smashed his laptop against a canopy upright. One guy was hanging onto the grab irons on the side of the coach. One time we had closed the doors, but I had mine open to pass the highball ahead. A guy tried to strong arm past me. In the evening rust there were enough trains that someone only had to wait a few minutes for the next.

There were also many nice people too. I worked many of the late trains. On the last one we had many daily riders. Sometimes they would fall asleep. We’d know where they were going, so would wake them up. This saved needing a cab from wherever they woke up.
  by ExCon90
A favorite technique with the "this-is-the-smallest-I-have" dodger on the PRR locals into New York was for the conductor to take the proffered 20 (serious money at one time), say "I'll be right back" and simply disappear until the train was slowing down for Penn Station with the conductor nowhere in sight and the passenger becoming visibly nervous until he showed up.
  by spRocket
Speaking strictly as a passenger, big festivals were always interesting in a "may you live in interesting times" sense. I remember coming home from the Independence Day fireworks and seeing one obnoxious drunk, after realizing he was on the wrong train, get up and pull the emergency brake handle. He got escorted off the train at the Blue Island station by some friendly policemen.