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 F40CFan
 
The automated PA system screwed up this morning on train 2226 which runs express from Franklin Park to Western Ave. Its not the first time it has announced stations that we weren't stopping at, but this morning it had a twist.

It called River Grove, Elmwood Park and Mont Clare "normally"; the next stop is.... now aproaching.....

At Mars and Galewood, it gave the "the next stop is" as we were passing through each station.

It did Hansen Park "normally".

It then announced "now aproaching Cragin" (yes Cragin) after we passed it and did the same thing for Grand/Cicero.

For some reason it ignored Hermosa.

I wish they'd go back to human announcements. Most of the worth while information comes from the conductor anyway.

  by doepack
 
Recently, I remember heading home on an outbound UP/W express, and the GeoFocus satellite system temporarily lost contact with our train. When it came back, it cycled through every stop it had missed (whether the train actually stopped there or not) until it "caught up" with us. From your description, it sounds like the same thing was happening with your train. Can't explain why it would call out Cragin, especially since Grand/Cicero has now been open for a month; I would hope Metra has updated GeoFocus with the new information by now, although it wouldn't totally surprise me if they haven't. Still, if it's happening as often as you say, perhaps you should let the conductor know, and have someone take a look at it...

  by metrarider
 
AFAIK, the station stops are programmed based on the schedule for that train #. The train # has to be entered by the train crew, and if they enter the wrong train #, the stops announced will be wrong

while nothing is perfect, with the GPS systems, at least you can count on the station stops being announced with a high degree of reliability, whereas my experience with station stop announcements prior to the automated system was that they were only made about 50% of the time (and even then not always legibly)

  by metraRI
 
The only problem I have run into with the GPS are flag stop announcements. The system only announces flag stops at the beginning of each run. For example on RI, after all regular stops are read, the GPS makes this announcement:

"This train will make flag stops at Robbins, Prairie Street and 123rd Street upon request. If you wish to make a flag stop, you must notify a crew member or the train will not stop."

However, before approaching the station, no GPS announcement is made. Crews must make the announcement, which sometimes does not happen.

  by F40CFan
 
I remember before all of the coaches had PA systems, the trainman or conductor would enter the car and call out the station names. It was their job, and they did it.

Instead of the tacky automated announcements, the conductors should be required to call out the station names clearly and at the proper times. They could keep the automated annoyances for the other announcements that no one pays attention to anyway.

  by doepack
 
metrarider wrote:while nothing is perfect, with the GPS systems, at least you can count on the station stops being announced with a high degree of reliability, whereas my experience with station stop announcements prior to the automated system was that they were only made about 50% of the time (and even then not always legibly)
True the automated announcements now available on CTA and Metra trains are a big upgrade, and they're a LOT better than the old conductor-driven announcements on CTA. By the mid-to-late 1980's, the audio quality of the PA system on those old 6000 series cars was very poor, and half the time, you could barely understand the stops being called out (that is, if the conductor even bothered doing so). For that matter, they weren't much better on the 2200's, which were already at least 15 years old by then. And they certainly couldn't be depended on to communicate any kind of an emergency, or to announce an express run...
F40CFan wrote:Instead of the tacky automated announcements, the conductors should be required to call out the station names clearly and at the proper times. They could keep the automated annoyances for the other announcements that no one pays attention to anyway.
Metra's newest cars, the 6000 bilevels, have LED screens located at both ends of the car, plus on the doors toward the vestibule, which announces the next station stop in conjuction with the audio announcements. It's a nice touch, especially for the hearing-impaired, but unfortunately, it's only available on Burlington and UP trains; current budget constraints prohibit Metra from adding the feature systemwide to the older cars.

(BTW- Since they were built by the same company, I'm assuming that the newer 8500/8600 cabs have this feature as well, does anyone know for sure?)

  by c604.
 
I was riding in an 8500 on the MILW-W yesterday and it had the scrolling LED screens working.

  by F40CFan
 
doepack wrote:By the mid-to-late 1980's, the audio quality of the PA system on those old 6000 series cars was very poor, and half the time, you could barely understand the stops being called out (that is, if the conductor even bothered doing so). For that matter, they weren't much better on the 2200's, which were already at least 15 years old by then. And they certainly couldn't be depended on to communicate any kind of an emergency, or to announce an express run...
The PA systems on the above mentioned cars were indeed in bad shape and I fail to see where an automated solution would be better. If the PA is shot, it doesn't matter who is making the announcement.

  by doepack
 
F40CFan wrote:The PA systems on the above mentioned cars were indeed in bad shape and I fail to see where an automated solution would be better. If the PA is shot, it doesn't matter who is making the announcement.
True enough, but remember, automated announcements had been on the drawing board at both agencies for at least several years before implementation, they were just waiting for the money. At CTA, since the 6000's were being retired anyway, it wouldn't have made sense for those cars to receive them. But conversely, it makes all the sense in the world for the modern equipment at both agencies to have capabilities for automated announcements, especially since these cars were already built with more sophisticated electronics systems than their predecessors. Nor is there anything wrong with retrofitting some of the older equipment to the same standard, as long as its economically feasible to do so. While I agree that regular riders basically ignore it, it can be helpful to newer riders that aren't as familiar with the system in general, or with a route in particular.

The fact is though, we're living in a different age, and as such, people in general tend to be lazier, and want things handed to them, while doing as little work as possible. Indeed, why even try to read a map anymore, when you've got things like Mapquest to do the work for you? This, plus the color coding of the rapid transit system, and automated announcements are only contributing to the general "dumbing down" effect that technology is having on our lives in general, and transportation in particular. It's sad and unfortunate, but such is life in the 21st century. You really can't blame Metra, or any transit agency for that matter, for attempting to adjust to this new reality...

  by F40CFan
 
doepack wrote:The fact is though, we're living in a different age, and as such, people in general tend to be lazier, and want things handed to them, while doing as little work as possible. Indeed, why even try to read a map anymore, when you've got things like Mapquest to do the work for you? This, plus the color coding of the rapid transit system, and automated announcements are only contributing to the general "dumbing down" effect that technology is having on our lives in general, and transportation in particular. It's sad and unfortunate, but such is life in the 21st century. You really can't blame Metra, or any transit agency for that matter, for attempting to adjust to this new reality...
I couldn't agree with you more. We are breeding a whole new race of idiots. I'd hate to see what would happen to them if their precious technology fails. I work with it every day and know how "reliable" it is.

Regarding the equipment; they did retrofit Mr. Satellite on the older Budd cars and you can't understand a word on some of them. Personally, I would have spent the money to fix/replace the PA so that all worked properly before attempting to automate. Just my opinion.

  by metrarider
 
What you are referring to as lazyness is really a desire to focus energy on other aspects of life.

This is all part of what drives productvity increases in the economy. Make it so people spend less time on figuring out the transit map increases their available time for other more productive items - such as working, spending time with family etc

And I take issue with it . I'm no idiot (IMHO at least) but I'm appreciate the color coding and other items which allow me to focus on other items rather than worrying the stops the train is making or If I've caught the correct train line.

And yes, technology fails. However, the 95%+ of the time when it works it makes our lives easier and gets us from point A to point B with minimum fuss. When it fails, we all deal with it without a societal breakdown (somehow)

  by F40CFan
 
metrarider wrote:What you are referring to as lazyness is really a desire to focus energy on other aspects of life.

This is all part of what drives productvity increases in the economy. Make it so people spend less time on figuring out the transit map increases their available time for other more productive items - such as working, spending time with family etc

And I take issue with it . I'm no idiot (IMHO at least) but I'm appreciate the color coding and other items which allow me to focus on other items rather than worrying the stops the train is making or If I've caught the correct train line.

And yes, technology fails. However, the 95%+ of the time when it works it makes our lives easier and gets us from point A to point B with minimum fuss. When it fails, we all deal with it without a societal breakdown (somehow)
Technology is fine, but if you don't know how things really work, you get lost when it fails. Example, I went to a bar where a band was playing. There was a $6.75 cover charge. I gave the cashier $21.75. She had no clue what to do. The bouncer had to tell her to give me $15.00 back. If people don't use their heads, they have no fall back.

Sorry, this got really off topic. I'm done.

  by metrarider
 
F40CFan wrote: If people don't use their heads, they have no fall back.
Indeed, and I agree with that on it's face. But let me posit that that has been a fact of life since day one and not really caused by the advent of technology.

What it might mean is that people who can skate by when technology is aiding them, can't hack it when that tech is not available - but I don't see that as a reason to deny the rest of us these useful and productivity enhancing improvements

  by doepack
 
metrarider wrote:What it might mean is that people who can skate by when technology is aiding them, can't hack it when that tech is not available - but I don't see that as a reason to deny the rest of us these useful and productivity enhancing improvements
Right. It's just that it seems many folks have become so reliant on it that they have no backup plan, and fail to develop one until either after a crisis hits, or a similar potentially embarassing situation occurs as described by F40Cfan. No, technology in and of itself isn't a bad thing; it has a plethora of benefits, and has amazing potential when used properly, but it's also a mistake if you become seduced into taking it for granted. For those that do take it for granted, they would learn well from those that can adjust, and adapt without it. It doesn't hurt to be versatile...

  by metrarider
 
doepack wrote: Right. It's just that it seems many folks have become so reliant on it that they have no backup plan, and fail to develop one until either after a crisis hits, or a similar potentially embarassing situation occurs as described by F40Cfan. No, technology in and of itself isn't a bad thing; it has a plethora of benefits, and has amazing potential when used properly, but it's also a mistake if you become seduced into taking it for granted. For those that do take it for granted, they would learn well from those that can adjust, and adapt without it. It doesn't hurt to be versatile...
Agreed. I just don't see it as a dumbing down of society in the same way it's been suggested in this forum. Sure, people are guilty of placing too much trust (in not having a backup plan) in technology, but this is not a new phenomenon, but it does become more apparent as we use technology (and face it's failures) in more and more aspects of our daily lives

there's always a few people that you wonder how they ever make it out of bed in the morning, let along navigating the roads/transit systems on a daily basis - but I digress