Why Does Metra Have So Many Problems?

Why Does Metra Have So Many Problems?

I admittingly am a casual Metra passenger (a weekend here or there), but my wife is a daily Metra commuter and this year seems to have more “pedestrian incidents” than the previous six or seven years combined. Including one this morning on the Heritage Corridor Line (HC), at the Joliet Station where a passenger was hit by a train on the platform.

Now I do have a vantage point in that I drop my wife off and pick her up from a number of different stations each week (depending on our schedules and work), so I spent up to 30-45 minutes in train stations dropping her off or waiting for her train to arrive per week.

You’d be amazed how careless people are around trains and the lack of consideration they give to being around trains.

See I’m from West Pullman and I grew up around trains, the old Illinois Central Electric (IC), tracks were only a couple of blocks away and the old Rock Island tracks were just on the other side of Ashland (main line), and then right at Vincennes were the other Rock Island tracks (sub-line), so I was instructed at a young age about trains and respecting them and being safe.

Often I see people run in front of an approaching train, or get off the train and run in front of it and people just not using good judgment.

I’m not saying all “pedestrian incidents” are because of this (unfortunately some are suicides), but my wife has had her commute affected by “pedestrian incidents” at least three times this year, including once earlier this year her inbound train actually hit someone who was taking their own life early one morning on the Rock Island line. She was also delayed by last weeks “pedestrian incident” on the BNSF line coming home.

What those who aren’t familiar with Metra may not know is how so many things are out of Metra’s hands but they have to deal with. Freight traffic (or interference), is a big problem on the BNSF & Heritage Corridor lines and can be a problem on the Rock Island. Signals are temperamental in cold weather and can cause delays. Cars have “incidents” with trains not to mention weather and earlier this week a gas leak not even associated with the train caused delays on the afternoon commute on the Rock Island. Not to mention “police activity” near and sometimes on the train.

I’ve learned to be a Metra rider (or spouse in my case), you need patience. Most times Metra communicates their issues in the train at via loudspeaker at the station for those of us waiting. Though they are often vague but my late father was a CTA mechanic, so I know mass transit is not an exact science.

And I know Metra gets a bad rap because they are often late and for the fares they charge (I hear they are considering another fare increase), people demand they do better. Most regular riders are going to and from work, being late is not an option.

In my own work I do come across Metra station construction work and though as a hassle and inconvenience their upgrades may be it takes a lot of planning, meetings and agreements to them doing work.

Most stations are owned by the local municipality that it resides in, though there is usually federal dollars involved too. That much bureaucracy means reviews,  delays and funding issues. Currently the BNSF station we use in Downers Grove has not just one but both platforms under construction and it was scheduled to be completed by now and it’s a huge inconvenience to commuters and makes for traffic problems too.

All of this adds to Metra’s growing problems and timeliness issues.

With the exception of the Electric Line and Rock Island, Metra does not own the tracks or even the employees on those other lines. With the BNSF, those conductors and workers follow BNSF rules (which are similar to Metra), but they are not directly reporting to Metra.

So in honesty, Metra is a patchwork quilt of trains, lines, employees and then crossing with other trains (freight & Amtrak), cars, trucks and people.

I’m not saying to give Metra a pass but understand what a maze and mess they sometimes have to navigate through and please be aware at stations and around trains. They want to get where they are going just like you do.

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