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 lstone19
 
I did some railfan riding of Metra yesterday and it was frustrating. And while I think Metra does a very good job with rush-hour trains, I realized, much of my off-peak Metra riding is frustrating.

As you might know from what I've mentioned in other posts, I work in the transportation industry and a lot of my job is looking at performance. An old railroad adage is "late trains get later" and I think a lot of it for a reason that I see at work as well. When you have a binary on-time performance standard (a train is either on-time or it is late although on-time may include being up to a certain number of minutes late), once it is certain that a train will miss being considered on-time, people lose their focus on it. The attitude is "it's late so a few more minutes of lateness won't make a difference". And that's true for the performance measure but not for the passenger who thought the hour allowed to get to their appointment would be more than adequate and is now wondering if they will make it. I might argue that a late train should be more important as more of the passengers are "on deadline". As I've said at work and will now rephrase for Metra, "are you in the business of operating trains or moving people?" They sound the same but they aren't. If you're "operating trains", you worry about hitting the performance measures and when a train can't meet them, it becomes a low priority. "Moving passengers" means you understand that there are hundreds of passengers on that train who still want to get to their destination ASAP.

Which brings me to my big frustration which is Metra's self-induced delays due to Metra's policy of trying to cram all the passengers into as few cars as possible while hauling a bunch more around empty. After watching a couple of trains get later and later due to long station dwells, I realized that the biggest factor affecting dwell time (unless there's a wheelchair lift needs to be used) is how many doors are open. Assuming passengers evenly distributed on the train and platform, a train using six cars should be able to make a station stop in half the time of one using three cars. Now for rush-hour trains, this generally isn't a factor as all cars are open. But non-rush hour, I've decided every time I hear a train is delayed due to "passenger loads" or however it is they put it, I'm putting the delay on Metra unless they already had all the cars open.

A few times a year, we take the train into the city for a Saturday evening and take the 10:40 MD-W train home. Every time, we've arrived to find just two cars open. And every time, by 10:35, people are wandering around looking for non-existent empty seats. Finally, at 10:39, the conductor arrives at the head open car to find the mess and open at least two more cars. By the time he does that, it's 10:41 and we're already a minute down before we've even cleared the platform. And with the load now not evenly distributed, station dwell times extend due to the extended deboarding from the original two cars. I'd be really curious to know how often, if ever, that Saturday night 10:40 MD-W had been able to comfortably fit the load into two cars. My guess it's been a long time and yet Metra sticks to this silly policy of just opening two cars until it becomes obvious (again) that more space is needed.

Yesterday, I went for a round-trip up to Kenosha on the only reasonable weekend round-trip that you can do that on. Unfortunately, Metra failed to anticipate the load boarding at Ravinia Park. It was a 4:45 performance done by 7:30. Arriving Ravinia Park, somebody said on the P.A. "we've got a sea of people waiting on the platform". They knew (or should have known) how many got off there earlier in the day. So why the heck was Metra caught by surprise to find lots of people waiting to board. Yet we only initially platformed the open front four cars. Extremely slow boarding as people clogged the aisles looking for a seat. A trainman quickly opened the rest of the train but the damage had already been done. Eight (yes, eight) minutes later, they finally closed the doors - so we could pull down four car lengths and open the rear doors. Finally on the way after an 11 minutes stop. And then extended dwell at the later stops letting people off due to uneven distribution and short platforms. We went from one minute down arriving Ravinia Park to 22 minutes late into Northwestern Station. And I put it all on Metra (not the crew, but management) who could have prevented much of the delay by planning for the load that they should have known would be there (a good plan might have been, load the front four through Ravinia (the station before Ravinia Park), then at Ravinia Park, open the rear four and let "the sea of people" board empty cars. Yes, there would have been issues with downline short platforms but we had that anyway). In case you're wondering, yes, I missed my planned connection home (on the UP-W yesterday, not MD-W, and due to the lateness, it also missed the UP-NW connection at Clybourn if any was trying that) and had to wait another two hours.

I do understand why they don't want what can fit in one car to be spread across eight cars. But at some point it crosses from efficient to use fewer cars to inefficient. And when you open so few cars that planned station dwell time is exceeded, then you're really not running an efficient operations.
  by doepack
 
lstone19 wrote:As you might know from what I've mentioned in other posts, I work in the transportation industry and a lot of my job is looking at performance. An old railroad adage is "late trains get later" and I think a lot of it for a reason that I see at work as well. When you have a binary on-time performance standard (a train is either on-time or it is late although on-time may include being up to a certain number of minutes late), once it is certain that a train will miss being considered on-time, people lose their focus on it. The attitude is "it's late so a few more minutes of lateness won't make a difference". And that's true for the performance measure but not for the passenger who thought the hour allowed to get to their appointment would be more than adequate and is now wondering if they will make it. I might argue that a late train should be more important as more of the passengers are "on deadline". As I've said at work and will now rephrase for Metra, "are you in the business of operating trains or moving people?" They sound the same but they aren't. If you're "operating trains", you worry about hitting the performance measures and when a train can't meet them, it becomes a low priority. "Moving passengers" means you understand that there are hundreds of passengers on that train who still want to get to their destination ASAP.
From my observations, it seems that Metra employs both philosophies unevenly. The "people moving" hat tends to be worn during the week, when all rush hour cars are open, and there's more service options. But then on weekends, they'll switch to the "operating trains" hat, with trains running on "memory" schedules for most routes, and as long as commuter control is kept informed, delays don't seem to be that big of a deal (unless police or mechanical assistance is needed). Otherwise, the prevailing attitude seems to be the train will "get there when it gets there". But I agree, the people moving hat should be worn more often on weekends, especially on UP, when you've got folks trying to connect with the other two routes downtown, or with a North or Northwest train at Clybourn.

I've mentioned before about Metra's use of "swing collectors", i.e., additional crew members that board and detrain at certain points en route to assist the conductor and brakeman (or assistant conductor depending on the line) with fare collection. A possible solution to enhance efficiency could be to let the swing collectors be available for the entire route on weekends, which could encourage more cars being open leaving the terminal, instead of just the bare minimum, while avoiding the practice of opening additonal cars when it becomes absolutely necessary, which just compounds the delays, as you've noticed. And likewise, you could also close off cars on outbound trains once a train is past a certain point, and move folks back to the remaining open cars, which would be an effciency enhancement as well.

Finally, your experience with crowded and delayed trains over the weekend is the main reason why I like to do my railfanning trips during the week, especially during the warmer months. Although I lose out on using the $7 weekend ticket, which results in more punches on my ten-ride (plus any "step up" fares), I find the extra cost is worth it since there's more express service, less hassle with heavy boarding due to no cars being open, and most importantly, almost no missed connections (it's only happened once in the last three years, not bad. And even then, that train wound up hitting something anyway, so missing it wasn't a bad thing at all!)
  by Tadman
 
I had my own Metra experience last week that was less than desirable.

I arrived at Ogilvie about fifteen minutes prior to train time. Plenty of time to get a coffee and buy a ticket, right? Nah, that would make way too much sense.

The ticket vending machines were out of order. Few ticket windows were open, leading to a monster line (ever go to Walmart, where they open lines when the load gets heavy?) and I finally purchased my ticket, turned around, and watched the markers of my train round the bend at Clinton street. &*^&^%&^)&*^^$%$#$%#$^%$%!!!!!

I boarded a green CTA train to Oak Park and caught a ride from there, so the damage was mitigated, but just how early should one show up for a commuter train? An hour?

This ticket vending machine failure issue is pervasive, too. I had the same problem at Blue Island a month ago, and the sassy conductor tried to charge me the $3 penalty until I straightened them out. It's also happened at 211th repeatedly. TVM failure = extra conductor chores, which is super inefficient. Especially when the decision makers do the math, spend millions on TVMs, then fail to realize the projected savings because the TVMs are perpetually out of stock.
  by lstone19
 
Thanks for jinxing it Dorian. :-( Pedestrian incident on the MD-W this morning. Fortunately for me at Roselle, 2210 (stopped at Bartlett behind the incident train, had to back to Spaulding to cross over) finally made it there essentially on 2220's time and deciding that standing on the train that's there beat a seat on a train at "who knows" what future time, I'm at work only 10 minutes late (lost more time due to extended station dwells due to loads but in this case, Metra was pretty much doing the best they could).
But, once again, they still haven't figured out how to operate 2220 when the railroad is plugged west of Roselle. As has happened once before, 2220's equipment gets stuck behind 2203 to get to the Roselle West crossovers. They should run 2220 in on 1 to Bensenville and delay 2205 (he wasn't going west of Roselle very soon either) but they won't. Or even use the hand-throw crossover at Itasca except (gasp!) that means a trainman has to actually do trainman duties (throwing switches).
  by F40CFan
 
lstone19 wrote:Thanks for jinxing it Dorian. :-( Pedestrian incident on the MD-W this morning. Fortunately for me at Roselle, 2210 (stopped at Bartlett behind the incident train, had to back to Spaulding to cross over) finally made it there essentially on 2220's time and deciding that standing on the train that's there beat a seat on a train at "who knows" what future time, I'm at work only 10 minutes late (lost more time due to extended station dwells due to loads but in this case, Metra was pretty much doing the best they could).
But, once again, they still haven't figured out how to operate 2220 when the railroad is plugged west of Roselle. As has happened once before, 2220's equipment gets stuck behind 2203 to get to the Roselle West crossovers. They should run 2220 in on 1 to Bensenville and delay 2205 (he wasn't going west of Roselle very soon either) but they won't. Or even use the hand-throw crossover at Itasca except (gasp!) that means a trainman has to actually do trainman duties (throwing switches).
To add to this story. I waited at Wood Dale and Mr. Satellite (automated announcement) on the platform indicated that the next train would stop and pick us up. It did, but was full to the gills. People crushed in and it left with vestibules and aisles full. The announcement said it would make all stops to River Grove and then express in. Good luck getting on that one. I don't like crowds and opted to wait.

The next two trains "expressed" through Wood Dale at maybe 15 MPH and I could see that both trains were less than 1/2 full. They did stop just east of the station to wait for a signal as they were climbing up the markers of the train in front of them.

2218 finally stopped for us. We cruised as far as Mannheim where we had to wait for a signal as the other trains were still backed up in Franklin Park. We finally got to Franklin Park and sat there for a while (I stopped counting minutes, but I think Ms. Satellite said we were 23 minutes down). I looked out the front door window and saw we had a clear signal for track 2. The trouble is 2218 is a local and needs to switch to track 3. We then proceeded to crawl to the next street east, where we sat looking at red signals for a while. They finally cleared a route for us and off we went.

Between River Grove and Elmwood Park, a train (my guess is 2220) passed us. So if they would have just turned 2220 like Larry indicated above, less people would have been inconvenienced by the accident earlier.

A called Metra, and they indicated that all trains were supposed to run local to River Grove and then express in. I explained what actually happened. They apologized.

When something like this occurs, they should switch to a skip-stop schedule like the Milwaukee Road used to run. Have one train skip a couple of stops, then make a couple, then skip a couple, etc. The following train would stop where the other train skipped. A common stop would be used for transfers. That way, the trains could both move down the line without waiting on each other and actually be productive.
  by lstone19
 
There was definitely a disconnect between what they were telling the public and telling the crews. The text alerts/emails/website said 2210 would make an extra stop at River Grove (since NCS trains were protecting the inner stops) but we didn't. But at least on board, they were announcing it would be Franklin Park, then Western.
One problem was they terminated 2201 at Roselle and sent it back as 2214 (presumably 2214's normal train waited at Elgin to be 2222, 2201's normal turn). So after the almost hour late 2210, came 2212 (probably right on 2210's heels) but it's Roselle, Medinah, then Mannheim. 2214 was gone so next was 2216, express after Schaumburg. Finally 2218, the bizarre Bartlett, Schaumburg, Wood Dale, and then inner local (I do not get that train). Itasca and Bensenville really took it in the shorts as after 2210, the next would be 2220 about an hour later.
Frankly, they really should just throw out the schedule and have whatever is running make all stops (at least in a "zone"). Although we were 50 minutes late, 2210 skipped Medinah as scheduled. Once the schedule is blown, the reason for the skips no longer exists.
I'm not totally sure how they were protecting the outbounds. 2206 turned to 2205 normally. 2208 normally then deadheads to Franklin Park to become 2224 - never saw an alert on it but nothing was sitting where he normally turns at Franklin Park. With 2212 running when it was, they probably just figured it would grab everyone.
2210's crew normally turns to an MD-N set to become 2207. 2207 may have been covered by 2214's crew and/or equipemnt. 2209, the 8:30, which normally gets 2218's crew and equipment, was getting 2210's crew and I assume equipment from cancelling a yard move (talked for a moment to 2210's engineer as he was walking over to the other train).
This afternoon could see a lot of extra board crews. I think some of the crews mid-day rest breaks were blown so they won't be legal for their full afternoon assignment.
Back to my original "frustations" title, while Metra did scurry to make something work, it still could have been better. Backing 2210 from Bartlett to Spaulding to get him on Track 1 - good. Leaving the deadhead to 2220 stuck behind 2203 who couldn't go west - bad. In the old days when the Roselle crossovers were split, they could have done it as 2203 could have sat on 1 while 2220 turned just west of the station on 2. But still, with a little thought, they could have done it today: send 2203 on to track 2 at Roselle West and pull two train lengths beyond - would have needed a Form whatever since I doubt he could have given him a signal for it with 2208 sitting stopped east of HP on that track. Then have 2220's equipment do the same, turn, and get out of town. Then back 2203 back to where he was.
  by byte
 
Metra used to, and probably still does, have an issue with not opening up enough cars on off-peak SWS and RI trains. It's particularly bad on the SWS. Once I rode a 9-car train to Oak Lawn; only half the car was open (the half without the bathroom), and the other half of the car was dark and coincidentally where the three-person crew happened to be chilling out.

However the most absurd incident of car-closing I've encountered was on the Rock. One day a couple years ago I took my bike down to Joliet to do some cycling (no problems on the way there), wheeled around for a few hours, then went back to JUS to take the next inbound train. It was a late rush hour train which unloaded and became an off-peak inbound run. So the train pulls in, everyone on it gets off, and then everyone waiting on the platform gets on, most of us going to an ADA car near what would be the front end of the train. Immediately the conducor, walking through the train, encounters us boarding this car and tells us noooo, we can't get on this car, it's not going to be open. We were then told to get off, walk further down the platform, and we can get on one of those cars.

So after dragging my bike both on and off the train, I walk it down the platform only to discover that there is no open ADA car I can bring it on (note that this WAS an off-peak train, where bikes are allowed). An assistant conductor standing in a doorway of an old Budd car sees this, and I see him murmer "[email protected]#t," then he motions for me to get on and says he'll open up a adjoining ADA car but the only way I can get to it is through the train, because curiously the engineer chose to pull the train one car length too far into the station, so that ADA car wasn't actually on the platform. So I wound up having to squeeze the bike through the vestibule between cars, and had the car all to myself until we got to 103rd on the mainline, where I'd told the assistant conductor I was detraining and he opened the doors.

There are two basic problems here:

1), Crews are starting off-peak runs without opening up an ADA car, which I'm sure is a violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Sure, if they see someone at a station in a wheelchair they can run over to the nearest ADA car and put it into service, but there goes 5 minutes from the schedule, not including the tme it takes to get the passenger on the train using the lift. They're basically betting no one with a bike or wheelchair will want to board, but if they lose the bet, then the train is made late.

2), My obersvation is that Metra has no actual policy on how many cars to keep open and closed, so head conductors simply do what's easy for *them* and that's how the trains roll. I'd seen the head conductor on the Rock in the incident above on multiple other occasions and his off-peak trains never had enough cars open. However, some trains do have a good amount of off-peak space in them, because those conductors aren't so lazy they refuse to work more than 1-2 cars. An internal policy on how many cars you open in the off-peak needs to be implemented to ensure that this brand of lazy operations doesn't continue. People who ride during rush hour and off-peak often do so for different reasons, and if you crowd up the latter like they're riding during rush hour, they may put up with it only once and drive downtown next time.
  by lstone19
 
Re-reading my original post, I'll point out that when you in irregular operations but still make only the scheduled stops even though the other trains whose schedules complement yours are not operating in sync with you, then you're "operating trains", not "moving people". This morning was a good example of Metra "operating trains" (although it does sound like there may have been a communications disconnect).
  by doepack
 
lstone19 wrote:I'm not totally sure how they were protecting the outbounds. 2206 turned to 2205 normally. 2208 normally then deadheads to Franklin Park to become 2224 - never saw an alert on it but nothing was sitting where he normally turns at Franklin Park.
What train was involved in the accident? And is 2224's equipment normally sitting on track 3 at Franklin Park after it comes in as 7241? I believe that track is also used by freights for the lead into Bensenville. I know hindsight is 20/20, but since nothing was there, one option could have been to run 7201 (2220's eq.) to Franklin Park, then flip him for an inbound local run to cover 2224's schedule. Then perhaps do the "skip-stop" dance for everything else west of there, and just highball in from Bensenville or Franklin Park onward.
byte wrote:Crews are starting off-peak runs without opening up an ADA car, which I'm sure is a violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Sure, if they see someone at a station in a wheelchair they can run over to the nearest ADA car and put it into service, but there goes 5 minutes from the schedule, not including the tme it takes to get the passenger on the train using the lift. They're basically betting no one with a bike or wheelchair will want to board, but if they lose the bet, then the train is made late.
All of Metra's cab cars are ADA accessible, but during off-peak hours, only the UP lines keep it open consistently, while it is kept closed on most of the other diesel routes. I've never understood that, but I guess that's what happens when there's no universal policy...
lstone19 wrote:Thanks for jinxing it Dorian. :-(
Who me? I didn't do nuthin'...
  by metraRI
 
byte wrote:It was a late rush hour train which unloaded and became an off-peak inbound run. So the train pulls in, everyone on it gets off, and then everyone waiting on the platform gets on, most of us going to an ADA car near what would be the front end of the train. Immediately the conducor, walking through the train, encounters us boarding this car and tells us noooo, we can't get on this car, it's not going to be open. We were then told to get off, walk further down the platform, and we can get on one of those cars....

1), Crews are starting off-peak runs without opening up an ADA car, which I'm sure is a violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Sure, if they see someone at a station in a wheelchair they can run over to the nearest ADA car and put it into service, but there goes 5 minutes from the schedule, not including the tme it takes to get the passenger on the train using the lift. They're basically betting no one with a bike or wheelchair will want to board, but if they lose the bet, then the train is made late.
2), My obersvation is that Metra has no actual policy on how many cars to keep open and closed, so head conductors simply do what's easy for *them* and that's how the trains roll. I'd seen the head conductor on the Rock in the incident above on multiple other occasions and his off-peak trains never had enough cars open. However, some trains do have a good amount of off-peak space in them, because those conductors aren't so lazy they refuse to work more than 1-2 cars. An internal policy on how many cars you open in the off-peak needs to be implemented to ensure that this brand of lazy operations doesn't continue.
What you described does occur at Joliet for trains #'s 422 & 424. When ADA cars began service, the designated placement of this car on RI was 2nd from the locomotive. Even though more ADA cars are in service today, the designated ADA car has not changed on RI, nor has it changed on any other district. If you recall, at one point only the cab car was ADA on UP trains... not the case anymore, but the cab car is always in use because it is the designated ADA car. Due to this designation, RI crews typically use the 2nd car from the locomotive as the starting point for in service cars on all trains. However, each crew decides what cars to use on an individual basis.

At Joliet, #'s 422 & 424 flip from a peak outbound train, as you mentioned. These trains need to clear the diamond, so only the rear 6 cars unload passengers. These trains are 8 car consists, so spotting the rear of the train on the platform places the designated ADA car off the platform. In order to use the designated ADA car, crews for the inbound train will typically use the 2nd & 3rd cars from the locomotive. However, because of the platform restrictions, the ADA car is off the platform so crews will only open the 3rd car out of Joliet... using the 2nd starting at New Lenox.
  by lstone19
 
doepack wrote:
lstone19 wrote:I'm not totally sure how they were protecting the outbounds. 2206 turned to 2205 normally. 2208 normally then deadheads to Franklin Park to become 2224 - never saw an alert on it but nothing was sitting where he normally turns at Franklin Park.
What train was involved in the accident? And is 2224's equipment normally sitting on track 3 at Franklin Park after it comes in as 7241? I believe that track is also used by freights for the lead into Bensenville.
2208 was the train involved. 2224 turns on Track 1 west of Franklin Park (which yes, means passengers transferring have to wait for the train they left departs and then cross both tracks).
doepack wrote:I know hindsight is 20/20, but since nothing was there, one option could have been to run 7201 (2220's eq.) to Franklin Park, then flip him for an inbound local run to cover 2224's schedule. Then perhaps do the "skip-stop" dance for everything else west of there, and just highball in from Bensenville or Franklin Park onward.
That's certainly an option. The problem though was sending 2220's equipment out behind 2203 without a plan (again) for how to get it out from behind 2203. This morning, I think a lot of people made alternate arrangements and we would have been fine without 2220 (which we essentially were since it ran an hour late) if only Metra had thrown out the schedule and not had half-empty trains passing stations with people waiting.
doepack wrote:
lstone19 wrote:Thanks for jinxing it Dorian. :-(
Who me? I didn't do nuthin'...
As you said in your first reply, "And even then, that train wound up hitting something anyway ...".
  by doepack
 
lstone19 wrote:
doepack wrote:
lstone19 wrote:I'm not totally sure how they were protecting the outbounds. 2206 turned to 2205 normally. 2208 normally then deadheads to Franklin Park to become 2224 - never saw an alert on it but nothing was sitting where he normally turns at Franklin Park.
What train was involved in the accident? And is 2224's equipment normally sitting on track 3 at Franklin Park after it comes in as 7241? I believe that track is also used by freights for the lead into Bensenville.
2208 was the train involved. 2224 turns on Track 1 west of Franklin Park (which yes, means passengers transferring have to wait for the train they left departs and then cross both tracks).
How nice, to be spared the courtesy of a same-platform transfer. Ugh.
doepack wrote:
lstone19 wrote:I know hindsight is 20/20, but since nothing was there, one option could have been to run 7201 (2220's eq.) to Franklin Park, then flip him for an inbound local run to cover 2224's schedule. Then perhaps do the "skip-stop" dance for everything else west of there, and just highball in from Bensenville or Franklin Park onward.
That's certainly an option. The problem though was sending 2220's equipment out behind 2203 without a plan (again) for how to get it out from behind 2203. This morning, I think a lot of people made alternate arrangements and we would have been fine without 2220 (which we essentially were since it ran an hour late) if only Metra had thrown out the schedule and not had half-empty trains passing stations with people waiting.
Whenever something/someone gets hit, it isn't easy to switch modes from "operating trains" to "moving passengers" on the fly, though I agree certain trains should have been handled differently. With that in mind, I wonder if Metra could make a minor adjustment to the schedule that would basically swap 7201 and 2203, so that the former could run express in front of the latter; then make the necessary adjustments to 2220 and 2226 as needed. Might have to tweak 2218's schedule too, so 7201 doesn't get stuck too long waiting for 2218 to clear Roselle West before making its turn, and to keep 2203 from catching up...
  by F40CFan
 
It seems to me that they should have a disaster plan to cover an incident at each station. These are rail professionals. They should be able to think of most scenarios and come up with a contingency plan. You obviously can't plan for all situations, but you can cover a good number of them.
  by ryanbytes
 
I had to go through the Ravinia BS yesterday as a Ravinia patron. I went once last year and learned of the extra train that's listed nowhere. Yesterday as I was waiting with hundreds of others the local scheduled to arrive at 7:38 pulled in and people started piling on. I asked the conductor if there was a special train following and he had no idea. He went so far as to climb up as far as possible on the side of a car to see if there was a train following. After loading for ten minutes he finally got word that there was a train following and he cut off boarding. I contacted Metra and Ravinia asking why nobody had information on just about anything train related. Ravinia replied letting me know there was a screen with the Metra schedule at the box office or that I could also ask somebody in the box office. Less than helpful. Especially if they're just looking at the printed schedule. Not helpful at all on the platform.

This was my second time at Ravinia and now that I know there's an extra behind the local I'll wait instead of worrying I'll be stuck out there until 10:30. It would be nice if all the people involved had concrete information. It's not as though this is a complicated situation.
  by Metra210
 
I live right by the UP West Line's Kedzie station, so I ride it pretty often. On weekends and holidays, this station isn't served, so I always go to Ogilvie to board an outbound train. UP-W trains depart at 40 after the hour, about every two hours on Saturdays, Sundays, and major holidays, and about 20 minutes before departure, the train begins to board. I always make sure that I'm on the platform at Ogilvie well before 4:20, 6:20, or whathaveyou so I can find a good seat on board a train, because as little as 5-10 minutes after passengers are allowed on board the train, the last four cars are almost filled! The last time I rode this train, on July 15th, the last six cars of an eight-car train filled up within eight minutes. Because I'm not too fond of crowds, I stood in the vestibule of the third car from the end, and watched for the next 10 minutes as passengers walked through the vestibule in a continuous, never-ending stream, searching for available seats. I personally feel that Metra and UP should look into running one or two extra trains on Saturdays and Sundays to eliminate this issue, and I'm not talking about just during the summer months. I've ridden this line since July 2011, so this seems to be a year-round thing. Out of the three UP lines, the UP-W sees, supposedly, the lowest ridership, but you really can't tell by looking at the crowds on weekend trains.

On weekdays, it's an entirely different story. There are more trains, of course, and it's easier to find a seat on board, the only exception being if you're traveling inbound during the AM rush or outbound during the PM rush. Last month, just for fun, I rode Train #47, which runs express from Ogilvie to Wheaton, and on the day that I rode it, it never became crowded while boarding at OTC.