Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

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  by MetraBNSF
 
Metra to add service for reverse-commuters, CTA riders

By Richard Wronski
Tribune staff reporter
Published March 5, 2007, 2:02 PM CST

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/loca ... i-news-hed

Metra officials today announced plans for a "Sunrise Express" reverse-commute train for Chicago residents heading to work in the northern suburbs and additional service for CTA riders seeking to avoid slow, crowded trains as the North Side elevated tracks are rebuilt.

The reverse-commute trains would operate over the Waukegan-to-Chicago leg of the Union Pacific North line, officials said at a news conference this morning in Waukegan.

The star of the new service would be the Sunrise Express, expected to initially attract "several hundred" riders, officials said. It would start running April 2 and operate Monday through Friday. Its $500,000 cost will be covered by a $250,000 federal grant and matching state funds.

The train would leave Waukegan at the unusually early time of 4:20 a.m. and arrive at the Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago at 5:23 a.m., officials said.

It then would reverse direction, leaving Chicago at 5:40 a.m. and arrive back in Waukegan at about 6:48 a.m. Currently, the first weekday train departs Waukegan at 4:58 a.m.

"Our job was to find a way to reliably and efficiently transport employees from the neighborhoods they live in to the neighborhoods where they work," said state Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest).

Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano said the agency also plans to add six new weekday trains to the Union Pacific North line starting April 2.

That's the day the CTA plans to begin work on the latest phase of its Brown Line reconstruction. The transit agency has warned of slower, more crowded conditions on Brown, Red and Purple Line Express trains through 2009 as it reconstructs the North Side elevated platforms between Belmont and Fullerton Avenues.

Metra's aim is to serve CTA riders seeking alternate routes into and out of the city, Pagano said. The new commuter trains will add 1,000 seats to the Union Pacific North line's capacity. Also, five existing trains will make additional station stops on the North Side and in the northern suburbs.

Pagano said that besides serving reverse commuters, the Sunrise Express would be Metra's answer to "the Wall Street scenario," with more Chicagoans in need of earlier transportation to get to their jobs in such professions as stock brokerage and commodities trading.

"We feel we're going to get a twofer out of this one train," Pagano said.

The unusually early inbound schedule would make it possible for early risers to be at their desks in downtown Chicago by 6 a.m., officials said. The outbound run would let those who work in the north suburbs to arrive at their jobs by 7 a.m. Stops would include Evanston, Highland Park and Lake Forest.

Besides downtown Waukegan, the seat of government for Lake County, major job centers include Lake Forest Hospital in Lake Forest, and Abbott Laboratories and the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in North Chicago, officials said.

There's also Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire.

Tim Grzesiakowski, a Hewitt official participating in this morning's news conference, said the Sunrise Express would give his employees "a greater range of options." Hewitt operates a shuttle bus for employees who ride Metra.

The new train also could benefit employees of Uline, an office supplies distributor in Waukegan. Up to one third of its workforce faces a reverse commute, said Frank Unick, the company's chief financial officer and chairman of Lake County Partners, a local economic development organization.

Metra worked over the last two years with a coalition of municipalities, chambers of commerce, businesses, schools, hospitals and state legislators to launch the Sunrise Express, officials said.

  by doepack
 
Nice to see the local service being beefed up just in time for the most disruptive portion of the CTA's Brown line rehab, although I have to wonder if it's going to be done at the expense of some of the rush hour express trains, which really isn't all that extensive to begin with. Remember, this is just a two-track railroad. Also, the lack of a current direct transfer station between the two lines still dimishes the full potential of Metra's role as an alternate route during the construction, especially when you consider those that might not consider this option just for this very reason. Otherwise, they'd fill up those extra 1000 seats pretty fast...

  by metrarider
 
be interesting to see the new schedule. I suspect that it will mean slightly slower timings for some trains than currently as stops are added.

this is a slightly disturbing trend, as of the last UP-N schedule change one of my regular trains had a stop added and now leaves OTC 2 minutes earlier for the same time arrival.

Still, I hope it alleviates problems as a result of the CTA work.

  by doepack
 
Some observations about the new schedule...

--There will now be 7 departures from OTC between 5:40 and 7:25am. Overnight "holdover" equipment will likely still be used on 309 (305 on the current schedule, usually a six-car set), while the other six departures will use equipment turned from earlier arrivals, including inbound NW trains 602 and 604. But after 6:30 or so, the turnaround schedules start to become very tight, lasting no more than 10 min, which means that any delays to inbound trains scheduled to head north again would easily spill over onto the outbound side, and may even lead to cancellations if the delays are serious enough. Something to keep an eye on...

--All inbound trains starting from Winnetka, in both rush hours, will make all stops from Evanston southward, but the same cannot be said for all outbound trains heading there from OTC. In fact, 305 is a straight express, while others will make limited stops, and what's really strange is that NONE of the AM trains to Winnetka will stop at Central St., Evanston. Meanwhile, 331, a new 1525 OTC departure, is the only outbound Winnetka local making all stops through Evanston...

--More stops have been added to the 1722 from Highland Pk, and the 1800 from Winnetka, new train #'s 350 and 354 respectively. Despite the fact that 354 (old 348) is now making six more stops, it's only scheduled to arrive OTC 5 minutes later. Guess it's because they aren't expecting any "delays due to heavy passenger loading" here...

CTA has served Evanston-bound passengers in the morning rush for many years, it is an established and busy market. Yet, if the stated purpose of rewriting the schedule was to provide more local service during CTA's Brown line rehab, then I have to wonder why there isn't more reverse commute service between downtown and Evanston during this time of day, because none of the AM outbound Winnetka trains don't really behave like locals, or at least aren't scheduled to. And, given the proximity of Northwestern University, minimal service to Central St. in the morning from downtown is truly baffling. With much better inbound service, it appears Metra was content with just providing alternative service in a single (southbound) direction. Not a total loss, but still more wasted potential...

  by metrarider
 
doepack's observations about the tightness of the new schedule is correct.

I really don't see how they are going to run these trains on time - or at least some of them

for example, inbound train 318 stopping at Central st @ 8:06am is almost always 4 minutes late and typically gets to central st at 8:10am. The next train #320 is scheduled to arrive central st @ 8:16 and is normally on time.

Now the new schedule inserts a new train in the middle of these two (calling at central st @ 8:11am), and there's simply not the capacity for another train to stop there without delaying the following trains

we'll see...

  by doepack
 
One more observation about the new schedule: The Ravinia specials are now numbered 353 and 364, and the latter run will depart Waukegan at 2140 on concert nights and make all stops to OTC. This is the first time I can recall the return inbound Ravinia trains being listed on the schedule. Meanwhile, 353 is listed as a daily train, but that may be in error...

  by metrarider
 
doepack wrote:One more observation about the new schedule: The Ravinia specials are now numbered 353 and 364, and the latter run will depart Waukegan at 2140 on concert nights and make all stops to OTC. This is the first time I can recall the return inbound Ravinia trains being listed on the schedule. Meanwhile, 353 is listed as a daily train, but that may be in error...
I did read somewhere (metra press release?) that the ravinia specials would be run daily in the new schedules - so I don't think it's in error

  by ne plus ultra
 
doepack wrote:Some observations about the new schedule...

...

CTA has served Evanston-bound passengers in the morning rush for many years, it is an established and busy market. Yet, if the stated purpose of rewriting the schedule was to provide more local service during CTA's Brown line rehab, then I have to wonder why there isn't more reverse commute service between downtown and Evanston during this time of day, because none of the AM outbound Winnetka trains don't really behave like locals, or at least aren't scheduled to. And, given the proximity of Northwestern University, minimal service to Central St. in the morning from downtown is truly baffling. With much better inbound service, it appears Metra was content with just providing alternative service in a single (southbound) direction. Not a total loss, but still more wasted potential...
Among other things, most places that anyone would commute to at NU are MUCH closer to the Davis St. station than to Central. By the time you get to Central, you're way too far west and you're somewhat north of even the northern edge of campus. Central is useful for getting to the football stadium, but beyond that, it's not an NU stop. Despite a small shopping district, Evanston is quite residential by the time you get to Central. There's not much reason for a reverse commute stop there.

The same is true of both Rogers Park and Main. There just aren't any significant employers worth stopping for.

It's a little tough to read, but here is a PDF of employment density showing the metra lines:
http://www.nipc.org/images/emp7000.pdf

You'll see that there's not a whole lot to serve along the UP-N aside from Davis St. This is borne out by my girlfriend's observation (she takes it NB in the morning) that the train empties out in Evanston.

  by doepack
 
ne plus ultra wrote:Among other things, most places that anyone would commute to at NU are MUCH closer to the Davis St. station than to Central. By the time you get to Central, you're way too far west and you're somewhat north of even the northern edge of campus. Central is useful for getting to the football stadium, but beyond that, it's not an NU stop. Despite a small shopping district, Evanston is quite residential by the time you get to Central. There's not much reason for a reverse commute stop there
True, Northwestern's main campus in Evanston is closer to Davis St. than it is to Central, although Northwestern students can transfer to CTA's 201 bus at Central if they so choose, which takes them directly to campus. CTA has said they're going to increase nearby bus service during the Brown line rehab, although this route may not be one of them...
ne plus ultra wrote:The same is true of both Rogers Park and Main. There just aren't any significant employers worth stopping for
I'd agree with Main St., but not Rogers Park. The S&C Electric Company, at 6601 N. Ridge Blvd. in Chicago, is about a 1/2 mi. south of the Rogers Park Metra station, and while it may not empty out the train, there are a decent number of folks that use UP/N's AM reverse commute trains from downtown to get there...

  by metrarider
 
Well so far things seem to be running fairly smoothly, however load is very unevenly distributed with some trains packed to the gills and seemingly empty.

Hopefully demand will smooth out as people figure out the new schedule, and hopefully Metra will pay attention and shift cars to the more heavily utilized train sets.

for example, I rode the 5:15 N Line departure out of OTC yesterday, which now makes all local stops to Wilmette (previously it expressed to Main St), and has seen a couple of extra cars added with the schedule change.

However this train I shared my 1/2 of the car with less than 10 people, where as the 5:15 prior to the schedule change was frequently SRO. Perhaps this is due to people shifting to the slightly faster 5:10 departure as a result of the added stops to the 5:15

  by doepack
 
metrarider wrote:Hopefully demand will smooth out as people figure out the new schedule, and hopefully Metra will pay attention and shift cars to the more heavily utilized train sets.

for example, I rode the 5:15 N Line departure out of OTC yesterday, which now makes all local stops to Wilmette (previously it expressed to Main St), and has seen a couple of extra cars added with the schedule change
Much of the equipment for these new UP/N trains is actually composed of capacity that's being subtracted from the West line, albeit in small amounts, where several rush hour trains are running with one fewer car than before, and the same thing could likely be happening on the NW line as well. Last I checked a couple of days ago, there's still four nine-car sets assigned to the West line (it used to be six), but I'm noticing fewer empty seats during rush hours; particularly on train 55 (dep. 1734) from OTC. Of the three UP lines, West has the lowest ridership and runs the fewest trains (59/day), so removing the excess capacity on this route makes sense, I just hope it's not overdone to the point of overcrowding...