True confessions: Why she's thrilled to switch from Metra to CTA

A friend of mine recently switched back to the CTA from the Metra after a recent move made it more convenient to commute via the CTA. And she likes the CTA much better!

She rode the Metra for about three years, dating back to when the CTA three-tracking project added 10-15 minutes to commutes on the Red, Brown and Purple Lines. During her Metra days, she told me she liked the “general” punctuality of the schedule, and the speedy commute with way fewer stops than the CTA’s Red Line.

But now that’s she’s back on the Red, she explained a few reasons why she’s liking the CTA more than the Metra:

“While riding Metra, I missed the urban authenticity of the L. Everyone rides the CTA — professionals, students of all ages, blue collar workers, Cubs fans, everybody. I choose to live in an urban area and I like to be immersed in its diversity.

“A pleasant surprise upon returning to L commuting is how efficient the trains are after the huge three-track project and all the work to fix the slow zones on the Red Line. And the train monitors at Belmont (the screens that say when the next train is coming) are awesome!!”

Fullerton next train sign.jpg

Everyone loves the new signs at various stations displaying when the next train will arrive.


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  • I noticed yesterday that they've aligned the text better on the train-arrival sign. Basically, we now have the London Underground's type of sign at Belmont, and I like it! Except they do need to cure the Belmont signs of their ADHD, frequently switching to pointless blather about Chicago Cards and Chicago Cards Plus. Let's focus, please, on train arrivals only!

  • There's a term for this woman, in fact there are many terms for this woman: Fool, idiot, halfwit, CTA employee, etc.
    Urban authenticity?
    Wait until you phone is stolen, that's authentic!
    Metra: 20 minutes from Rogers Park to downtown.
    CTA: At least 45 minutes from Loyola to downtown. And it's one long slow zone from Howard to Lawrence due to all the 88 year old viaducts being in a state of collapse.
    Now Metra isn't going to be great for a while here, because they have to replace all of their 103 year old viaducts built for the Northwestern Ry., but they're actually going to replace them, not prop them up with steel cribbing.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Scooter, you're welcome to your opinions, but you're plain wrong about travel times from Rogers Park. I usually go from Morse to Grand on the Red Line in 30-35 minutes in rush hour. 30 minutes is rare but it has happened.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Why would Metra replace them? Doesn't Union Pacific own the tracks?

    (I'm just asking to better understand the Metra-BNSF/UP relationships)

  • In reply to sargas:

    UP owns the right of way, but if you look at the actual rails at the correct time of day, they have Metra stamped on them.
    As for why they are being replaced, as I wrote, they are 103 years old.
    For the best example, stand under the viaduct at Wrightwood Ave around noon-2PM, it's just east of Clybourn. You can see the sky through it.
    Or look at the column bases at Lunt Ave, by the Rogers Park station.
    They're all rusting away.
    Metra is forced to use old, inefficient & prone to breakdown locomotives here because the newer ones weigh too much for these old viaducts.

    And I don't ride the Red Line in the rush hour. I ride midday & it's always at least 45 minutes from Loyola to Jackson. There's always construction middays!

  • In reply to sargas:

    From what I udnerstand, Union Pacific owns the tracks, but Metra is responsible for maintaining viaducts and bridges within Chicago city limits. I have no idea why

  • In reply to sargas:

    Every time I'm entertained by, say, the guy last night translating the canned announcements into Na'vi (I'm guessing. It could have been Klingon.) I wonder why anyone would willingly give up riding the CTA.

  • In reply to sargas:

    I do love the new signs, but am disappointed that they are already cluttering them up with extremely verbose and wordy propaganda (the current message is more than a full screen of text!). Just show the times - I don't need to know that my Chicago Card might be expiring (you can email or mail me if it is), etc.

  • In reply to sargas:

    What's wrong with the urban authenticity of Metra?! I've seen "professionals, students of all ages, blue collar workers, Cubs fans, everybody" routinely riding Metra. I ride probably six days a week and I see opera patrons, Cubs and other sports fans, college kids, and families all riding together with the regular crowd commuting to or from work.

    If she means ethnic diversity, I see plenty of that too on Metra, especially on the UP-North which is presumably the line she used to ride.

    The days when commuter trains were filled mostly with middle-age white guys in suits are long gone. With all due respect, I have to wonder if she was actually looking around at her fellow passengers when she rode Metra.

  • In reply to jbredin:

    A couple weeks ago on a weekday rush hour UP North train the conductors were comparing notes about breaking up fights and having people arrested on the weekend runs. Is that a good example of urban authenticity?

  • In reply to marthat3:

    I had a moment of urban authenticity on the Milwaukee North Line today [Friday].
    I was at the Edgebrook platform waiting for the NB 3PM train & actually saw an old man calmly lie down in front of the locomotive & get sliced in to two parts. I was maybe 200 feet away!

    My thoughts as it happened were:
    1. I don't believe what I'm seeing. Seriously, but something clicked in my brain & I turned away.
    2. That poor engineer! What did he ever do to you?
    3. You rotten, self-centered sonavabitch! You've fucked up the day for thousands of people trying to get home that never did a damned thing to you!

    That's urban authenticity!
    And it ain't fun!

  • In reply to marthat3:

    Let's debunk what Scooter Libby has said: there are no failures of the F40 locomotives that Metra uses throughout it's system. Actually, the MP36's have the most failures, and they're the newest engines in Metra's arsenal.

    "UP owns the right of way, but if you look at the actual rails at the correct time of day, they have Metra stamped on them."

    No, there are no rails stamped with Metra, METX, or anything else. They're stamped with RTA. Union Pacific, and other railroads, mostly arrange for track rights with Metra. Those companies (UP, CN/IC, CP, etc.) perform the track and signal maintenance. Only in certain instances does Metra perform it's own MofW (maintenance of right-of-way). In the case of Union Pacific railroads, it is all done by the UP.

    As far as Scooter Libby's commentary about Metra "not being great for a while", he should look up the statistics of Metra's performance over the past 15 years. That is, if he can learn to look past his own snout.

  • In reply to marktwain:

    Then why do the rails at the Rogers Park station have Metra stamped into them?
    Stand on the platform when the sun is at the correct angle to see the word "Metra" & then tell me I'm wrong, you can't!
    i am signed up with Metra to receive email updates on delays & many of them are for equipment problems.
    If the F40s are so reliable, then why does Metra store several spares at the NE corner of Northwestern Station?
    You know nothing!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    whoa whoa whoa..... That sign in the picture shows Purple Line trains to Linden. Those currently do NOT show up on the sign at Belmont. Was this feature disabled by the CTA? If so, why? Or maybe this is a sign from another station that DOES have the purple line times (maybe Fullerton? Not sure if they have the purple line times there since I haven't been to that station since these signs went up)? Either way, I'm transferring to the purple every morning at Belmont, and it would be great to see the next train arrival...

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    Nirvana, you are right - the Purple Line times don't show up on signs at Belmont. This sign is from Fullerton. One step at a time....

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