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 chirailfan
Haven’t driven over to the Aurora Transportation Center which is close to where Hill Yard is located. BNSF uses 19 sets to run a full weekday schedule. Would not be surprised if the longest sets (2 - 10 cars and 3 - 11 cars) are tied up. One of the Downers Grove express trains yesterday after 5pm used a 9 car set. Barely anybody got off at Route 59 when it made its stop around 6pm. Route 59 on a normal weekday around 6pm is a steady stream of people getting off a train at that time and trying to get out of the lot as quickly as possible.
  by ohioriverrailway
Is everyone still running normal length consists, or have cars been removed as well as overall service?
  by doepack
ohioriverrailway wrote: Fri Mar 27, 2020 1:16 pm Is everyone still running normal length consists, or have cars been removed as well as overall service?
On UPW, I don't think more than two of the six Elburn based nine car sets are in use on any given day since the adjusted schedule went in this week. Everything else is five or six cars, and I haven't seen more than three cars open on any given train. With the way ridership has plummeted, having just one car open in some cases would be sufficient enough for the current reality without violating the "social distancing" mantra. Hardly anyone is riding...
  by orangeline
I have a question concerning how Metra passenger car configuration. Entry/exit is through a single set of double doors in the middle of each car, one set per side. Passengers tend to congregate in the central vestibule for at least 30-60 seconds prior to their stop. A trainman or conductor is also present to operate the doors. In normal times social separation at busier stations is considerably less than a 6 foot radius around any one person. Even with much lower passenger loads I imagine it difficult to change such ingrained behavior in riders. Do the train crews have some way to minimize their exposure to riders getting on/off? How about ticket validation between stations and sale of tickets where offices are not open at a station? I'm curious how it works and how it may evolve.
  by eolesen
On Monday, I was out and about & hit a couple parking lots between noon and 2pm to do some parked car counts. It sure doesn't look like traffic is returning...

Using 2018 survey data and making a gross assumption that two people were in each car (which helps adjust for pedestrian boardings and drop-offs).... it's still between 5-8% of "normal" right now, and probably less given the unscientific adjustment/assumption.
Code: Select all
Line   Station         2018   Cars   % 
MD-W   Big Timber       619   50     8%
UP-NW  Crystal Lake    1115   40     7%
UP-NW  Pingree Road     701   25     7%
UP-NW  Cary             871   25     6%
UP-NW  Fox River Grove  451   12     5%
  by doepack
Yep, still mostly empty lots here in the DuPage corridor too. Taking an unofficial survey on recent walks, College Ave. remains flat (~10), but there's now a modest increase to around 20-25 at Glen Ellyn.

I'll be very surprised if UP-W gets extra service added anytime soon, according to Metra's ridership dashboard, only three daily trains average more than 30 people in a car. The rest of the trains are empty enough to promote extreme social distancing...
  by MetraBNSF
Have not been out that way in a while but Route 59 at this time last year averaged about 20 cars on both sides of the tracks (Aurora south; Naperville north). While most likely still large expanses of open parking, wouldn’t be surprised if there’s 50-75 vehicles in the lots during the day.
  by daybeers
It would be awesome if some of Metra's parking could be turned into TOD.
  by justalurker66
daybeers wrote: Mon Jun 21, 2021 7:50 amIt would be awesome if some of Metra's parking could be turned into TOD.
Any developers interested? I keep seeing TOD pushed by commuter agencies but a snack shop and newspaper stand isn't enough. Apartments would need spaces for some cars, depending on what other services are available.
justalurker66 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 4:41 pm
daybeers wrote: Mon Jun 21, 2021 7:50 amIt would be awesome if some of Metra's parking could be turned into TOD.
Any developers interested? I keep seeing TOD pushed by commuter agencies but a snack shop and newspaper stand isn't enough. Apartments would need spaces for some cars, depending on what other services are available.
DB: That depends on the specific situation at any given station. TOD is good for built-up central core
"downtown" areas that surround Metra stations in which there would be a good percentage of riders that can
walk to or from the station. Good train service and convenient residential development complement one another.

There has to be a balance to keep parking available for those who must drive to stations. This is especially true
of exurban areas of any large city served by commuter rail. In Chicagoland the best example that I can think of
is the (IL) Route 59 Station on the BNSF Aurora Line (which was pre-pandemic) is one of the highest-ridership
stations in the entire METRA system. If reasonable parking options are not kept those driving in will abandon
rail adding to traffic on Chicagoland-area area roads which are busy to begin with...MACTRAXX
  by justalurker66
I see "TOD" as one of those buzz words that planners throw around. All the cool kids support TOD and if one doesn't support TOD one isn't a cool kid and one cannot sit at the cool kid table. People who don't support "TOD" simply don't understand! :)

I support the transit part of TOD. Put rails and stations where they serve people. What happens around those stations depends on how the transit is used and how the transit is used will depend on the design around the station. The design of putting the Red Line in the Dan Ryan and the Blue Line in the Congress freeways was good for getting rail service to those locations. Not so good for getting people to the stations. In essence the stations were built land locked in the middle of a large patch of concrete. Getting to and from the stations was made more difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists. There is no good space for development in the neighborhoods along the line.

Once the line is designed or built one has to look at how people will get to the station. The Red and Blue line expressway stations mentioned above have no parking so it is mostly fed by other public transit or people who will walk through the concrete jungle. The Congress Blue Line has large parking structures to act as feeders for the system. People can get off of the freeway, leave their car in a multilevel parking lot and use transit for the rest of the journey. The Dan Ryan Red Line does not have a parking lot feeder but one is planned to be built at 130th St when the Red Line is extended to the south. The other branches of CTA Rail are more residential in nature with limited parking and stations serving neighborhoods. The Red Line extension will have several neighborhood stations before ending at the 130th St garage.

Probably the best design for a station is to have a parking lot on one side (preferably a parking structure if many parking slots are needed) and other development on the other side of the tracks. TOD proponents do not support stations in the middle of large parking lots. Parking structures help stack cars and provide more space that can be developed close to the station for non-parking uses.

The big question is what other uses want to be next to a transit station. At many of the rural Metra stations the morning snack and coffee may be the limit of what passengers want at the station, other than convenient parking or another quick way home. Condos and apartments may work - if people want to live there. Other services need to be available to make the station area livable otherwise people living at the transit station will still need a car (and a parking lot/structure to store it). The "car free" station works better in the city where there are plenty of transit options available than at suburban Metra stations.
  by eolesen
A few communities on the NW line have had investors try TOD with varying degrees of success -- Palatine, Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, and Des Plaines all have apartment/condo towers that have popped up in the last couple decades within 2-5 blocks of their train stations.

Fox River Grove has been trying for over 10 years to get their own variation of that started, and it seems Barrington wants nothing to do with it, so it's clearly not a guaranteed success.

Seems that the appeal of being next to the train station might only apply for the commute to the city. Last tower I saw going up on the old car wash site in Mt. Prospect has a huge parking garage. Perhaps they're chasing a different market i.e. people looking to trade a place that's old in the tooth for something more modern

I also question the allure of moving out to the suburbs for car-less people -- in other areas of the country that don't have Chicago's weather, it's not a big deal to have to walk a couple blocks with your groceries. Chicago in Jan/Feb? No way.
  by MetraBNSF
TOD or not, Downers Grove is another suburb that has had quite a bit of apartment and condo development not far from the Main Street station. Forest Ave just south of the BNSF, Burlington Ave across the street from the station has mixed use retail and condos. About 1/4 mile to the south on Main Street and Maple Ave is a newer luxury apartment complex. In the last few years Downers Grove has really double down on its downtown area. Outside of Naperville and Route 59, DG ranks up there as one of the busiest outlying stations in the entire Metra system. Hop on an express - 25 minutes to from DG and CUS.