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 EricL
 
I think the Metra website is okay for what it does. My main beef with it is just stylistically outdated and kludgy. The article got it exactly right - apart from the main page, pretty much everything looks just like reading out of the paper timetable, but on your computer screen. It would not be difficult to pretty it up a bit while still maintaining the same functionality.

I understand people will want to just read the timetable: at least use some nice-looking tables, or better, CSS divs, instead of ugly block-font text. It should also have an option, preferably a box on the front page, where you can put in "I want to go from X to Y at Z time", and it will pull up a page or popup box with JUST the times for those two stops, along with the price of a one-way fare (forget listing the whole fare table out in this particular case - KISS - the idea would be to keep it "at-a-glance"). The station boxes should not be conventional dropdown boxes - it would take forever to scroll down and pick your stations - but rather smart boxes, like Google search has now, where you type in the first few letters it takes care of auto-complete matches. I imagine this could cull data from the RTA Trip Planner database but without having to actually click over to the RTA website in a separate window.

Major service disruptions should be right on a banner on the front page. Scrolling marquee is dated and difficult to read, so I would stay away from it. Maybe a better approach would be to display a banner like "Midday Service Advisory: Metra BNSF Line, click here for info", on a green (the line's "color") background, that leads to a page or popup with the full details. A separate section for live train status a la CTA Bus Tracker would be nice, and it seems like Metra is probably already working on this.

Update those ugly Javascript pop-up menus.

The current Ticket-by-Internet system is horrible. Print out a form from the website and mail it in? What's the point? It would be nice to be able to pay for ten-rides and monthlies online, and have them mailed or "will-called" at the station, but Metra doesn't want to pay for credit card merchant fees, so meh. At least get rid of the mail-in-application legwork and implement an online user account system.

Offer useful portions (schedules, fares, itinerary generator, service notices/train status) in a mini format that displays well on mobile phone browsers.

Better photos and maps on the station pages would be nice (the recent addition of Google Maps is a step in the right direction), but this isn't a top priority. I also like the new CTA website's station pages for the fact that they include service advisories for the line(s) on which the station is located.

Actually, come to think of it, the new CTA site is almost perfect. I think its biggest issue is that it continues to rely on PDF for displaying full bus and train schedules. Yes, a printable version is nice, but it should be in HTML form too. Believe it or not, there are still computers out there that don't have the Adobe Reader installed, and that particular browser plugin is known for being slow, memory-hungry, and unreliable anyhow.
  by byte
 
I think the new CTA website is great because it was developed by Graham Garfield (of Chicago-L.org fame) and Tony Coppoletta (created SaveChicagolandTransit.com a few years back, now works for the CTA) - Two people who are decent web designers and also know how the system works. Beats the hell out of hiring some low-bidding web design firm from Iowa or something.

Also note that Metra put out its RFP for a new website after the CTA unveiled theirs. I suspect that the existing website may have remained unchanged had the CTA's not looked so darn good in comparison.
  by doepack
 
While the CTA website is a fantastic upgrade from the previous version, the only minor issue I have with it is that it doesn't link you to either the Pace or Metra sites directly, you have to use the RTA trip planner link located on the home page. Which can be confusing for folks traveling around the region using some combination of the three carriers who may not know what the RTA trip planner is, and if they do have to use it, it's more than likely they'll have to visit the Pace and/or Metra sites anyway. When Metra's site is revamped, I hope the home page will still contain direct links to CTA and Pace via the home page as it does now...
  by AMTK347
 
Metra track work means bus rides
http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/news ... S1.article
Waukegan News Sun wrote April 10, 2009

NEWS-SUN STAFF REPORT
Midday riders on the Metra Milwaukee North Line will be riding the bus April 20.

A major track resurfacing project between Fox Lake and Rondout is scheduled to begin that day and last for about five weeks, Metra officials said Thursday.

Rush-hour service and weekend service will not be affected, but the work will significantly affect weekday, midday train service -- generally from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. inbound to Chicago and 8 a.m. to 12:35 outbound -- for riders using stations north of Lake Forest, they said.

"We urge riders who board midday trains between Fox Lake and Libertyville to consider driving to the Lake Forest station, where there is some parking available," a Metra spokeswoman said. "Another alternative to consider is the North Central Service line from Antioch, whose Prairie Crossing station is adjacent to the Milwaukee North Line's Prairie Crossing station. Otherwise, passengers will have to adjust their schedules for an earlier departure or later arrival."

Beginning April 20, off-peak trains to Chicago's Union Station that originate in Fox Lake will travel no farther south than Grayslake. Passengers will then be bused from Grayslake, Prairie Crossing and Libertyville to Lake Forest, with the buses leaving the stations at the same time as the scheduled train departure.

Passengers bused from train 2128 will find a train waiting for them at Lake Forest, and should arrive at Union Station about 30 minutes later than normal. Passengers bused from the remaining affected trains will have to wait for the next scheduled train from Lake Forest, which will arrive downtown an hour later than their normal train.

Off-peak trains from Chicago will travel as scheduled only as far north as Lake Forest, where passengers bound for stations farther north will board buses to Libertyville, Prairie Crossing and Grayslake. Passengers heading to stations north of Grayslake will take buses to Grayslake and then board trains at Grayslake to reach the rest of the stations on the line.

"We anticipate that passengers traveling from Chicago to Libertyville and points north can expect delays of up to 30 minutes," the spokeswoman said.

For a full schedule of affected trains and busing times, go to http://www.metrarail.com .
Its about time Metra started using busitution
  by Illinifan
 
Back in 1994 and 1997(primarily on weekends), Metra used busses to take passengers from the old Rondout platform to Grayslake or Libertyville. Two car trains worked back and forth between Fox Lake and the Libertyville. The other trains were just north of the crossover to Fox Lake Sub. I look forward to seeing how this new arrangement works out with these altered schedules.
  by doepack
 
I don't get why they would advertise NCS as an alternate, especially since there are no plans (to my knowledge) to even temporarily fill in any of the current four-hour service gaps during the construction. I would think UP/N would be a better alternative (especially in the Lake Forest area) since there's more service, but that's just me...
  by metraRI
 
As this has been tossed around in the news over the past few months... I've thought about what the future could bring for Metra. Will ticket agents be a thing of the past?? Look at new agencies, all tickets are sold by Machine. Metrolink and Caltrain also follow suit outside main terminals. Something to think about.
  by doepack
 
I don't think ticket agents will ever be completely replaced, though there may eventually be fewer at outlying stations, with also a possible reduction in staff and/or hours at the downtown terminals. But I do believe that fares will eventually have to be increased to pay for these technological upgrades, and with that in mind, I have to wonder just how much longer the $5 weekend pass will last...
  by metraRI
 
The latest OTB mentions the remanufacturing of another 40 F40s, along with other stimulus projects. Its also the 2nd OTB in a row to include a question asked by yours truly. Not too shabby.
  by MetraBNSF
 
Hopefully the $7 million being allocated to the BNSF will include replacing the remaining signal bridges that have yet to be replaced.
  by doepack
 
metraRI wrote:Its also the 2nd OTB in a row to include a question asked by yours truly. Not too shabby.
I saw that too. Guess they like your questions.... :-D
  by metraRI
 
doepack wrote:I saw that too. Guess they like your questions.... :-D
I had asked Tinley Park the same question and they said October. I definitely did not like that answer. At least Metra has the decency to just say "later this year", answering the question... yet, not really answering anything. :-)
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