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 doepack
 
Metra seems to be faring pretty well overall so far with this latest bout of subzero weather, only saw scattered delays on a couple of lines this morning on Metra's website, and most UP/W trains appear to be on time. But it ain't over yet...
  by lstone19
 
Except for the North Central Service which shut down this morning due to a CN derailment north of Mundelein. Not that I'm affected but I'm disappointed Metra didn't try to run some service using the connection to MD-N at Prairie Crossing (which is already used in the evening by train 120). Then once at CUS, trains could have been sent up the NCS to Mundelein to provide some service south of there (for that matter, ridership on the MD-W was so light yesterday and today they could have combined a couple of MD-W trains and sent a train from Elgin up to Mundelein). Although its possible CN has ended up with trains parked on the main in the way.
  by doepack
 
lstone19 wrote:Except for the North Central Service which shut down this morning due to a CN derailment north of Mundelein. Not that I'm affected but I'm disappointed Metra didn't try to run some service using the connection to MD-N at Prairie Crossing (which is already used in the evening by train 120). Then once at CUS, trains could have been sent up the NCS to Mundelein to provide some service south of there...
Or just truncate service southbound at Prairie Crossing, and northbound at Prairie View or Vernon Hills with bustitution taking care of the rest. Another option could be to run shuttle service meeting MDW trains at River Grove, and... ah, skip it. Never mind. It's ironic that even though NCS has one of the most flexible route structures in Metra's system, Metra has absolutely no options for alternate service on that route whenever problems occur due to its relationship with CN. No limited service, no shuttle buses, nothing. Passengers are simply told to go elsewhere. Such a waste...

Now Metra says no NCS service 'til tomorrow (Wed.), per it's website. Oh well...
  by ryanch
 
dinwitty wrote:jeez, just about every foggy half stormy day the airlines get bogged down and if it happens in new york Chicago flights to it get delayed cancelled, go write up on them while the railroads just keep clogging away in those circumstances. Anytime it happens to the railroads its the chicago fire all over.
Oh, please. Clue yourself in to what happened here. One major difference, which few here seem to get, making me think there aren't many riders posting here, is that airlines don't typically expect their passengers to wait through delays standing outside.

The other thing that no one here is acknowledging is that a big part of the fiasco is that Metra claims to post information about delays. Loads of people went to metrarail.com, saw no problems posted, and assumed things must be running reasonably well. If Metra had just said "you'll probably be sitting just south of Clybourn for half an hour", I might have driven, and been back the next day with no hard feelings towards them. (I actually sat somewhere near Division and Elston for an hour and forty minutes, but if they'd given a suggestion of the likelihood of serious delay, even if the estimate wasn't tremendously accurate, I'd have been satisfied.) There were a number of trains stacked up in front of us waiting, so clearly the delay was already present by the time I checked metrarail.com at 8:00 am to see what was up. But there was no information.

I myself didn't have to wait outside, since there's a waiting room at Evanston Central. But loads of people did. And I did walk 12 minutes to get there, through knee-high snow, something that I'd have minded less if it actually got me to work in any proximity to on-time.
  by justalurker66
 
ryanch wrote:Oh, please. Clue yourself in to what happened here. One major difference, which few here seem to get, making me think there aren't many riders posting here, is that airlines don't typically expect their passengers to wait through delays standing outside.
Airlines are notorious for holding their passengers on planes on the tarmac for extended periods of time. A big enough problem that the federal government had to step in and write a bill of rights for aircraft passengers.

Leaving people on the platform is bad ... especially in poor weather. It certainly wasn't a passenger first decision for the passengers involved.
  by BrianLM007
 
I think we all agree that the Clybourn incident could have been handled better and there are lessons that can be learned for the next major snowstorm. Still, this has been a rougher winter than what we have had in some time. Here in Indiana, NICTD has been taking a very cautious attitude with all this by just throwing in the towel for a day during "the storm" and busing passengers between South Bend and Michigan City as they did on Monday and Tuesday this week. They've also have been encouraging people to sign up for their email or SMS/text service for delay information, so at least NICTD has been taking the comments about communication to heart.

I know in my case, I've been cutting NICTD a break on the timeliness issue and have not been sweating things out if the train is 10-15 minutes late. I think the Tribune editorial board should take the same tack...
  by doepack
 
BrianLM007 wrote:I know in my case, I've been cutting NICTD a break on the timeliness issue and have not been sweating things out if the train is 10-15 minutes late. I think the Tribune editorial board should take the same tack...
The unfortunate incident at Clybourn, coupled with a number of cars being taken out of service after the initial wave of subzero cold is probably what prompted the article. I'd like to believe that had those two events not occurred, the Trib may have been a bit more forgiving. But Metra has been a favorite whipping boy of the Trib over the past few years, and while some of the criticism is deserved, other articles are hit pieces with a civic agenda attached to it, IMO. This particular article had a little of both...
  by ryanch
 
BrianLM007 wrote:I think we all agree that the Clybourn incident could have been handled better and there are lessons that can be learned for the next major snowstorm. Still, this has been a rougher winter than what we have had in some time. Here in Indiana, NICTD has been taking a very cautious attitude with all this by just throwing in the towel for a day during "the storm" and busing passengers between South Bend and Michigan City as they did on Monday and Tuesday this week. They've also have been encouraging people to sign up for their email or SMS/text service for delay information, so at least NICTD has been taking the comments about communication to heart.

I know in my case, I've been cutting NICTD a break on the timeliness issue and have not been sweating things out if the train is 10-15 minutes late. I think the Tribune editorial board should take the same tack...
For those who only understand the situation based on the limited amount they read, I'm not just talking about Clybourn. Loads of trains were significantly late, and the website didn't show it. There are other stations without indoor waiting areas.
  by doepack
 
ryanch wrote:For those who only understand the situation based on the limited amount they read, I'm not just talking about Clybourn. Loads of trains were significantly late, and the website didn't show it. There are other stations without indoor waiting areas.
Under normal conditions, Metra will post delay information for trains if the delays exceed 15 minutes or so. The information includes the train number, a generic reason, how long the delay is expected, and if any other trains will be covering the schedule at particular stations en route, if applicable.

Under abnormal conditions, (i.e. our current winter) if severe cold and/or heavy snow is forecast with enough lead time (preferably 24/48 hours in advance), Metra tries to forewarn passengers of delays by posting "winter weather advisories", and to expect delays. For the record, Metra posted three of these in January; according to the email alerts I received, the postings originally appeared on 1/3, 1/22, and 1/24 (this last one read more like an unofficial response to the Trib article while advising of delays). Personally, I don't necessarily agree with this generic, "catch-all" method of pre-advertised delays because it's more of a "CYA" thing and also because most folks don't bother going to the website until the day of travel. Besides, it's my opinion that most folks tend to ignore that post anyway.

Yes, Metra dropped the ball on posting line-specific delays on that brutally cold day, and with the traffic the website received that day, the timing of that glitch couldn't have been worse. Fair enough. But at the same time, it's unfair to insinuate that Metra doesn't post delays at all...
  by Tadman
 
I guess I find it hard to believe that anybody had the expectation that things would be remotely normal on such a cold day. If you left your house expecting anything remotely on-time or normal, you were asking for trouble. I don't need Tom Skilling to tell me to button up or allow extra time to get to a destination when the temp is -7 and windchil is -25. Immediately upon hearing such temperatures forecast, I assumed many trains would be late or canceled, the roads treacherous, and conditions very hazardous. As such, I wore extra layers of performance clothing and consulted the Metra site before showing up at CUS. Yes, it was a madouse. But a little planning and critical thinking made things work fine for me on those days.
  by lstone19
 
doepack wrote: Under abnormal conditions, (i.e. our current winter) if severe cold and/or heavy snow is forecast with enough lead time (preferably 24/48 hours in advance), Metra tries to forewarn passengers of delays by posting "winter weather advisories", and to expect delays. For the record, Metra posted three of these in January; according to the email alerts I received, the postings originally appeared on 1/3, 1/22, and 1/24 (this last one read more like an unofficial response to the Trib article while advising of delays). Personally, I don't necessarily agree with this generic, "catch-all" method of pre-advertised delays because it's more of a "CYA" thing and also because most folks don't bother going to the website until the day of travel. Besides, it's my opinion that most folks tend to ignore that post anyway.
Absolutely worthless and definitely, IMHO, a CYA thing. But we're the type who understand how things work and know when there's weather there are likely to be delays. But somehow, in part because the media is setting the expectation, we've become a society that expects transit to operate perfectly even when everything else is going wrong.

Right now, saying "Expect Delays" has become like the boy who cried wolf. They're meaningless words because they've become overused and no longer have a known meaning. Every highway construction project now comes with signs that say "Expect Delays". How much of a delay? No information. When during the day or what dates? No information. Whether there's no delay or hours of delays, it's still "Expect Delays" so the words have no meaning. Just someone covering their rear so no can complain and say "but nobody told me there might be delays" even though it was obvious to anyone with half a brain.
  by Tadman
 
Larry raises a good point - there should be two different levels of delay warning. One goes out only by low-impact methods and warns of delays up to 20 minutes or sporadic nature. The other is a "oh s***" delay warning, the type that should only be used 1-2x/year, and is handed out through news channels and lets people know there shouldn't be any expectation of normalcy.
  by justalurker66
 
People should understand the difference between "expect delays" on a normal day and "expect delays" on a severe weather days.

Metra is not your mother or your nanny. Metra should not have to tell you to bundle up and keep warm, the train will be late or may break down.

We want transport to be guaranteed ... we want the hard part of our trip being getting to Metra property and then we hand ourselves over to Metra for a clean safe comfortable ride to wherever we're going. We want friendly conductors, cooperative co-passengers and an engineer who glides the train to a perfect stop and glides away to the next station without spilling everyone's coffee. But we should understand the world we live in and have some personal responsibility.

If "expect delays" needs to be heightened for severe weather days perhaps adding "trains may be cancelled or terminated at any time without notice" would help. or just cancel service completely and let people fend for themselves. People seem to be upset when Metra does not at least attempt service - is it a lose lose situation where Metra can't win by offering trains or cancelling trains?
  by Tadman
 
Lurker, I think that's well said. Metra is in a lose-lose situation when weather gets bad, and they're not our nanny. They're our railroad.

Here's a neat question: What did people do before the internet or cable TV spoon-fed them news? Consider the heavy snowfall from the late 1970's. How did the Rock or the Northwestern advise their riders of possible delays? What were the riders' expectations?
  by lstone19
 
And with more weather expected, we have another meaningless alert. The big problem with over-warning is it becomes noise that is quickly ignored (see my earlier comment about "crying wolf") - it just becomes something to ignore because 99% of the time, it's meaningless.
Look at how these days, all the TV weather forecasters seem to compete on who can make the day's weather sound as bad as possible (a spinoff of "if it bleeds, it leads"). No, today will not be the tenth "storm of the century" this year. And when that once in century storm does occur, I will have ignored the warnings because it didn't sound any different than the last storm that despite the TV doom and gloom was no big deal.
Most people (but not all) understand unavoidable delays. What really get people mad is bad planning by people who don't really know the situation (cough*Clybourn*cough).
I've commented before about "moving people" vs. "operating trains" mentality. A rush-hour train that operates two hours late may look good in your completion statistics ("operating trains") but does little for "moving people". OTOH, converting an express to a local due to the cancellation or delay of another train is a hit to performance ("operating trains") at the benefit of "moving people".
I was once on a six-hour late flight. Was I mad? No, because it was acutally operating an hour ahead of the delayed flight I had originally booked. I was home an hour earlier than planned. For the airline, it was a bad day "operating flights" but for this person, a good job of "moving people".