CTA commute is no picnic - but be thankful you don't use Metra

The CTA and its million-strong riders certainly faced many cold-weather-related challenges Monday. But at least it didn't suspend service on its key train lines as Metra did on Monday.

A man boards a CTA bus near 14th Place and South State Street in Chicago early Monday morning.(Chicago Tribune photo by Heather Charles, Jan. 6, 2014)

A man boards a CTA bus near 14th Place and South State Street in Chicago early Monday morning.(Chicago Tribune photo by Heather Charles, Jan. 6, 2014)

Metra canceled 27 trains on five rail lines during the evening rush hour, leaving thousands of commuters stranded in the subzero chill, looking for ways to get home. UPDATE: On Tuesday morning, Metra canceled another 26 train.

That would be like the CTA suspending service on the Red and Blue lines for an hour or so. In other words, crippling.

Still, as the headline to this post notes, it was no picnic riding the CTA today either. But at least trains and buses were moving, even if they were a little late.

Starting on Sunday, I got more than 30 "CTA Alert" emails about various rail problems. Most were related to frozen switches, doors or similar rail mechanical problem. On Twitter, the CTA sent almost 50 tweets in 24 hours, including info about bus problems.

Tuesday won't be much better, so be smart:

  • Leave extra time for your commute.
  • Dress well with no body parts exposed, except perhaps your nose and eyes.
  • Use CTA tracker systems to get a better idea on when your train or bus will arrive.

And be safe.
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  • And a small flask with your favorite in it . . . if you get my drift!

  • Maybe the CTA & Claypool will rethink about putting heating lamps or some type of heat in those bus shelters and adding more shelters across the city. Sooooooooooooooooooooo routes do NOT have shelters in a city that gets all 4 seasons.

    People are freezing out there in this bitter, polar vortex and now its time to rethink that city contract to the French who created these dysfunctional shelters.

  • In reply to ApresSki:

    Even if there were heat lamps they wouldn't do much good in this kind of cold. Seems like it would be a large amount of money spent on something that would only benefit a small number of people. It makes sense to put them in the rail stations since many more people can use those. How would you determine which bus stops were worthy?

  • In reply to Nirvana91:

    Agreed. I would be happy if they'd send someone out to shovel in front of the shelters. The shelter at my stop had 2+ feet of snow piled up in front of it from the snow plows. The bus driver was smart enough to stop several feet away from the curb, but climbing over the frozen mound was quite treacherous.

  • In reply to Nirvana91:

    Bus stop heaters would be more prone to vandalism too, since fare is not paid before getting near them.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    I'd be more concerned that the heaters would attract more homeless than they already do. There are days when one can't get near the shelter, as a band of homeless have made camp in the shelter.

  • In reply to ApresSki:

    Besides, like most things, the shelters have nothing to do with CTA. The French are paying money to the city for the right to use city sidewalks for their advertising. Only CTA connection is that CTA paid for the Bus Tracker signs.

    And you keep missing Scooter's posts that they were designed in the USA.

  • In reply to ApresSki:

    As Jack has told you on this thread & he got it from 2 posts of mine on other threads, the shelters were designed by American architect, Robert A.M. Stern.
    You consistently ignore that fact!
    He has numerous awards over the years.
    He is currently the Dean of the Yale University School of Architecture.
    He should be fired due to the shelter design!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Why should he be fired from Yale due to what you perceive as a poor design for a bus shelter in Chicago?

    As they say, those who can't do, teach.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    If you are at all interested in architecture, you should read the book 'How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built' by Stewart Brand. It's an interesting read, and the author takes numerous swipes at the architecture profession. For example, he basically says that buildings are designed to make the cover of Architectural Digest, and not for the benefit of the tenants. Notice how the photos are always taken before the first tenant moves in? They rarely go back years later and ask the tenants how the building functions. Comically, he says that some of the worst buildings are the ones on the college campuses housing the Architecture departments.

  • Kevin,

    Where did you get the idea of 'stranding thousands of commuters'? I'm curious whether there's a solid source, or speculation. I'd note that there was almost no one on my UP North train this morning. A normally full half-car had 11 people on the 8:13 (or so) from Evanston Central. My guess is the annulments mostly meant people rode different trains than usual home - you'll notice that they canceled some, and made others run all-stops, rather than skipping the stops that are normally covered by the annulled trains. Certainly some people were inconvenienced, and you may be right about 'thousands stranded,' but I thought I'd play devil's advocate.

  • In reply to ryanwc:

    There were stories on WLS TV and WGN TV about BNSF and UP cancelling trains either because of equipment problems or the crews had worked the maximum hours. They also mentioned that two RI trains crashed into the bumper at the end of the track at LaSalle St. station, for no apparent reason. Then there were the interviews with people who were delayed at CUS. However, it appeared more like delayed than stranded. (Channel 7.1 has the video and fuller story on its website

  • In reply to ryanwc:

    Ryan, I have to admit I don't have a solid source for the "thousands" figure. It is a guess. But technically only 2,000 had to be stranded for me to be right. :-)

  • Not to mention that NICTD completely shut down, and most expressways in Indiana were closed. At least most Metra stations are enclosed.

  • "That would be like the CTA suspending service on the Red and Blue lines for an hour or so. In other words, crippling."

    So, I take it you weren't trying to ride the Red Line from 4:30-5:00, then. When not a single bleeping northbound train was moving ...

  • In reply to WCityMike:

    You are correct Mike, I was not. I'm sure that was pretty horrible, but it seems like the Metra situation was worse. Of course, if you're standing outside waiting on the CTA, you are free to disagree! :-)

  • The people who normally ride Metra to work weren't stranded, they were told to stay home.

  • Well, at least the number of people hit by Metra trains will be lower during this cold snap.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    Other than the occasional idiot that tries to beat the train, the only people hit by Metra are suicides!
    Ever since Phil Pagano got caught stealing from Metra & then died by one of his own trains, suicides have been plaguing Metra.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I love this sign I swiped from a train years ago. Metra advertising its kill rate: http://johnpseudonym.tumblr.com/post/9667922713/09-01-2011-woman-killed-by-metra-up-northwest

  • Sorry, I meant the people I work with who would normally be on Metra.

  • Seems that Metra cancelled 27 trains, but ran the other 676 ones on their schedule. I know that some. maybe most, were not on the advertised schedule due to cold, track switches and passengers moving more slowly. But, all in all, people were handled. I understand that leaving a train load of people out in the cold at Clybourn is inexcusable, and I hope all concerned (UP/Metra) have learned the lessen well.
    All in all, Metra did run over 95% of their trains. I was pleased to get the ride to & from. Seat or no seat I was provided the transportation I paid for!
    Thanks to all at Metra for working, just showing up for work showed their commitment, through the bad weather.

  • In reply to Fritz that’s It:

    On the UP/Metra issue, the thing I find unfathomable is the report that there isn't any service standard in that contract. At least Pace makes contractors report missed runs.

  • In reply to jack:

    Metra still won't force the UP to move the decision making on high winds to Chicago. It got the CN to do so.
    The UP apparently thinks that high winds in Chicago are the same as high winds on the Great Plains. So they shut down service any time the speed is over 40 MPH.
    While a few miles away, the Milwaukee Road lines are operating parallel to the old C&NW lines. In fact, the lines cross at two places, but only one is running.
    Utterly absurd & insane!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Arlene Mulder gave UP a tongue lashing this morning, so that sure should cure it ;-).

    Anyway, this morning's traffic report was that both the UP and Milw were messed up.

  • In reply to jack:

    There were some switch problems today
    On the lighter side, I'll bet the people in this article will soon work for the CTA. http://tinyurl.com/kklcp73

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Probably not.

    CTA has been anal compulsive about the width of its cars since the first curved sided ones (the original 5000s?) while not really giving a care about clearance to the side of the tunnel.

    I wonder how many Euros it will cost to rebuild the subways, though. Neither CTA nor Metra would have the money to do that.

  • In reply to jack:

    The first curved sidewalls [fishbelly] were the two North Shore Line Electroliners built by the late & very lamented St. Louis Car Co.

  • So, you work at 567 W. Jackson, correct?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    At least he doesn't work for the RTA, where Gates seems to be intent on making more make work. While Metra has left it open to investigation, he isn't accomplishing anything. In the meantime, nobody is investigating the CTA, but at least there were not the widespread reports that it was out of service this time.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    No, don't work at 567 W. Jackson. I do Ride the train, bus and subway to get around. What I did was to checked the facts about Metra service. Everything was slow and cold that week and I was glad to be inside the train. The UP screwed up big time. Clearly whomever made the call to dump the train of people at Clybourn should be desciplined for that action.

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