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 wilmette2008
 
The other day the Sun-Times published an article about Metra Conductor and Engineer pay. http://chicagosuntimes.com/news/metras- ... engineers/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; If people are angry at the pa then go to 547 West Jackson and apply, then have fun working nights, weekends, and holiday's. Why does the media always write "outrage" stories like this?
  by CHTT1
 
Well, let's see. Metra's board today approved an 11 percent fare hike, the first of a decade of planned fare hikes, so riders _ and taxpayers - are interested in how Metra spends its money. The salaries of public employees are a legitimate concern for taxpayers and riders. That being said, a careful reading of the story shows that in order to make $100,000 per year, Metra's engineers and conductors have to work a boatload of overtime. And only about 30 percent of the operating employees cross the six-figure line. And, it turns out, Metro-North's highest earning operating employees earn a lot more that Metra's. Hey, as far as I'm concerned, people taking the responsibility to operate trains in a safe and efficient manner deserves to make as much money as possible.
  by MACTRAXX
 
Everyone:

I read this article about Metra's Engineer and Conductor pay and I am in agreement that railroaders work hard for their compensation and
it shows how much some of these employees are dedicated to their respective occupations and have to put in many extra hours to be
able to earn these six-figure salaries that the Sun-Times reports...

I found it interesting that this came from the Sun-Times because I remember them being a pro-union "working man's newspaper" as they
would be compared with the Chicago Tribune - which was more of a "management" newspaper - that would probably expose stories like
this one in which highly-paid working class people that work for a public corporation are either overpaid or somehow abusing the system...

Yes-Both of the MTA's railroads - LIRR and MNCR - have some of the highest pay scales in passenger railroading in the US and again I will
agree that their train and engine crews definitely earn their good salaries and benefits...These workers - in some cases - literally dedicate
their lives to their jobs...This makes me think of the Donna Summer song lyric "They Work Hard for the Money" - and they do...

MACTRAXX
  by johndoe780
 
Well then,

Maybe it's about time Metra moves into the 21st century and has electronic fare cards (i.e. swipe on when boarding, swipe off when leaving.)

Free up some conductor time for safety instead of fare collections.
  by sipes23
 
johndoe780 wrote:Well then,

Maybe it's about time Metra moves into the 21st century and has electronic fare cards (i.e. swipe on when boarding, swipe off when leaving.)

Free up some conductor time for safety instead of fare collections.
Or ticket vending machines at all stations. That in itself would speed things up (and maybe increase the on-board ticketing fee). But if Ventra is coming to Metra, then I could see tap-in and tap-out as a way to make it work too. I'm not sure a gated station like the L or NYC subway would work with Metra's infrastructure. The conductor would still have to verify the tickets, but having the tickets bought in advance would have to help.

I wonder how the 10-ride pass would work. Especially with the ability to stop the journey part way that they have now. I can tell you that feature is a big deal if you need it.
  by Tadman
 
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.
  by byte
 
Metra's TVM problems (machines not working or out of stock) are generally caused by ... Metra! I'm in agreement with Tadman here, especially if you need to get a ticket at CUS for the PM rush. Last time I looked (in August) there were a grand total of two TVMs sitting across from the ticket agent windows. At best, half of the ticket windows will be staffed (usually less) and while I don't think I ever saw the TVMs down completely, they were usually lacking some of the stock (no one-ways in this one, no ten rides in that one). Got a train to catch in five minutes? Sucks to be you, it'll be at least ten before you have a ticket in hand.

You'd think that after having had TVMs on the electric district for such a long time, Metra would be fairly familiar with the concept, and begin installing (and maintaining) them in places where they'd be useful - more in the downtown terminals, to shorten lines during rush hour, and then at agent-less stations like the 35th on the Rock and Ravinia, which get big bursts of riders during off-peak times.
  by lstone19
 
byte wrote:Metra's TVM problems (machines not working or out of stock) are generally caused by ... Metra! I'm in agreement with Tadman here, especially if you need to get a ticket at CUS for the PM rush. Last time I looked (in August) there were a grand total of two TVMs sitting across from the ticket agent windows. At best, half of the ticket windows will be staffed (usually less) and while I don't think I ever saw the TVMs down completely, they were usually lacking some of the stock (no one-ways in this one, no ten rides in that one). Got a train to catch in five minutes? Sucks to be you, it'll be at least ten before you have a ticket in hand.
Worse yet, my experience is the CUS Metra ticket agents are pathetically slow. PM rush, long line, and there's no sense of urgency on the part of the agents. Plus all the needless questions they want to ask. Once I asked for an A to E one-way but that wasn't good enough - I needed to say what station I wanted to go to. For in-person sales, they want to track sales station to station although of course once you have the ticket, you can go to any station of that zone. Fortunately I don't normally need to deal with them since I get a monthly by mail but occasionally I've needed to buy for a friend or family member.
  by TrainManUPRR
 
Tad-
Class 1 freight engineers and conductors are paid more than the Metra crews are.
  by Tadman
 
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.
  by johndoe780
 
Yep, they need to have ticket vending machines at ALL train stations. That would definitely speed things up.

Wasn't even that long ago Metra didn't accept credit cards...... Can't even remember the last time I wrote a check and carry $200-300 cash for a monthly pass??

For the most part, Metra's still stuck in the 20th century, in some aspects, 19th century.
  by johndoe780
 
byte wrote:Metra's TVM problems (machines not working or out of stock) are generally caused by ... Metra! I'm in agreement with Tadman here, especially if you need to get a ticket at CUS for the PM rush. Last time I looked (in August) there were a grand total of two TVMs sitting across from the ticket agent windows. At best, half of the ticket windows will be staffed (usually less) and while I don't think I ever saw the TVMs down completely, they were usually lacking some of the stock (no one-ways in this one, no ten rides in that one). Got a train to catch in five minutes? Sucks to be you, it'll be at least ten before you have a ticket in hand.

You'd think that after having had TVMs on the electric district for such a long time, Metra would be fairly familiar with the concept, and begin installing (and maintaining) them in places where they'd be useful - more in the downtown terminals, to shorten lines during rush hour, and then at agent-less stations like the 35th on the Rock and Ravinia, which get big bursts of riders during off-peak times.
Three words: Electronic fare payment.

Hopefully they improve the implementation that someone can buy a ticket on their phone (hopefully with ventra) show/scan it and be done with it.

But..... Metra will be complaining about the loss of revenue due the $3 surcharge and soon to be $5.
  by doepack
 
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...
This, among other missing pieces of info sums up why I dismissed this article as a hit piece penned by hack journalists trying to stir up... something. With no context, nor actual evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse. It seemed to me that the idea that some engineers and conductors can make six figures just didn't sit well with them, which I guess was why they spent half the article targeting and blaming the current union agreements. Dogs barking loudly at nothing in particular for no reason.

Thankfully, they aren't falling for this in the comments section...
  by Tadman
 
Newspapers have resorted to that crap quite frequently just trying to get readers. Remember the hit piece the trib kept doing on the SS Badger? Barf...
  by Milwaukee_F40C
 
With the amount of time that conductors and collectors are tied up selling tickets on packed trains, some revenue is also literally walking out the door if you all know what I mean.