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 eolesen
MetraBNSF wrote: Mon Jan 13, 2020 1:25 pmAside from a small yard south of Clybourn does UP have any other freight facilities along the north and northwest?
Quite a bit on the Northwest line, enough to justify 2-3 weekly manifests Proviso-Janesville plus a couple unit trains per week during grain hauling season.

Blommer Chocolates right next to Northwest Junction still receives cars off both the west line (hoppers) *and* the northwest line (presumably vegetable oil cars on lower level of the factory). On the Northwest Line, there are still freight customers in Arlington Heights (lumber), Rolling Meadows (multiple), Crystal Lake (multiple), Woodstock (multiple), plus grain elevators at Ridgefield, Chemung, Evansville.

I don't see UP abandoning all that traffic between Janesville and Des Plaines.
  by Tadman
I don't think they should abandon that traffic, the real question is if it can be handled mid-day or after hours.

In comparison, the South Shore sees a very healthy freight business but they know how to keep the freights out of the way. Each freight is overpowered to move quickly and always carries power facing both directions so it can turn quickly and rarely runs LHF, which makes it easier and safer with regard to running in close proximity to passenger trains at 50mph.

For that matter, BNSF does quite a good job of running freights down the racetrack despite being the heaviest commuter line in the city. Perhaps it's the triple track, but I see plenty of coal trains and merchandise freights moving among the commuter trains. My sister lives a block off the main near 294 and her 3yo daughter is becoming quite the railfan, she can tell a Metra from a freight since age 2.
  by eolesen
It's already handled in off-hours. The bulk of traffic moves overnight, but there's a mid-day window where you'll occasionally see freights rolling on the UP-NW/Harvard. In fact, I saw a unit grain train of about 80-100 cars rolling east past Arlington Park yesterday around 0930.

As long as they can maintain track speed and don't have to stop for the CN @ Barrington (MP 32.3), it's usually not a problem to cover the gap between the end of triple track before Barrington (MP 31) and the end of commuter territory at Harvard (MP 63). West of Crystal Lake (MP 43.2), the locals working customer sidings have more flexibility as there are only a few trains that run all the way out to Harvard during the day.
  by MetraBNSF
Brief article by UP.


Union Pacific and Metra have a long-standing relationship, governed by a Purchase of Service Agreement (PSA) that expires Feb. 29, 2020. We are negotiating a new agreement under which Metra would assume responsibility for directly operating its commuter routes through a Services Transfer. Union Pacific would continue to maintain the track and coordinate train movement across its lines. The goal is to provide a smooth transition; ensuring riders continue experiencing safe and efficient service.
  by ExCon90
The link states that Metra has raised the issue of whether UP has a common-carrier obligation to provide passenger service. Does anyone know whether that issue has been raised in other metropolitan areas having rail commuter service? (NERSA got Conrail off the hook, but I believe the language of the Act specified only Conrail and only the Northeast.)
  by eolesen
The only two places I can think of where a Class 1 is operating commuter service is UP and BNSF on behalf of Metra. Everywhere else, it's been either the agency or a third party running the service, so common carrier obligations are a moot point.

If Metra is bringing up common carrier obligations, it sounds like they *don't* want to assume service.

As guessed, it also appears they're keeping the ROW and dispatching. Should be interesting to watch...
  by Tadman
Doesn't BN run commuter trains in Seattle?
  by Tadman
Also it appears I was wrong, UP wants out of any sort of common carrier designation. That's a whole lot more obligation than just being a POS operator, and it makes matters very complicated for UP if they ever want to change the arrangement. If they're considered a common carrier, their offerings are subject to all kinds of state and federal regulation, where if they're just the contract operator of the trains, that designation would fall on Metra and Metra has to deal with the problems.

I'm curious what BNSF thinks of this.

I also can't believe Metra picked this fight. I totally understand why UP doesn't want to be considered a common carrier for the purposes of commuter train, and it's pretty obvious that designation is not worth any revenue figure at all, regardless of what today's number is.

TLDR, being considered a common carrier for purposes of commuter trains offers the risk of being PC or Lackwanna in 1975. All pain, no gain, and no way out other than bankruptcy. Hard pass.
  by CHTT1
Doesn't BNSF also operate the North Star commuter trains in Minnesota?
  by MetraBNSF
BNSF runs commuter trains in Seattle, Minneapolis, and also has a hand in Metrolink in LA.
  by Tadman
If I were BNSF, I would have lawyers at Metra HQ right now getting a piece of paper signed that says we don't want to get common carrier status.
  by eolesen
Someone clearly poked the hornets nest there.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  by doepack
Any updates here, or did the pandemic kill this too?
  by Pensyfan19
I have some, um... disturbing news regarding this topic...

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... -wins-suit
Union Pacific says it will stop providing some support services for Metra at the end of August and would stop operating trains for the commuter railroad within 90 days if it wins its current lawsuit against the Chicago agency. Crain’s Chicago Business reports in a paywalled article that the railroad said in a statement that it is providing advance notice so Metra can plan accordingly. The railroad said that as of Aug. 31, it would begin to discontinue support services including mechanical work, and clerical and legal support. Metra responded that such decisions must be made through mutual agreements or legal proceedings, and that it is continuing good-faith negotiations with UP. UP is currently paid about $100 million a year to operate trains for Metra on three routes — the North line to Kenosha, Wis., the northwest to Harvard and McHenry, Ill., and the West line to Elburn — it inherited when it acquired the Chicago & North Western in 1995. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, those three lines accounted for 194 trains on weekdays. UP has said it wants to end responsibility for operating the commuter trains while continuing to “manage train movement across its lines.” The railroad filed suit in December as part of its effort to exit the commuter business; at the time, both UP and Metra said there would be no disruption of commuter operations.
  by eolesen
Nothing disturbing at all. That's how negotiations work.

There's no reason that UP should be doing mechanical work on Metra's equipment, nor should they be doing back office clerical or legal work. The only thing UP should be doing is providing crew members and doing pre-trip safety checks on the equipment. Metra has a car shop at Western Ave that can do repairs on bad ordered cars or locomotives, and it's all connected to the UP at Tower A2.