11 February 2011

"We didn't want to admit that we couldn't do it."

Trib: Metra: We mishandled blizzard

Yeah, tell me about it. And the situation was made even worse by the fact that conditions varied so drastically from line to line.* I think this is because "Metra" is something of an illusion. In some cases Metra does indeed run the trains, but in some cases it's the railroad company. In some cases Metra owns (or is at least responsible for?) the ROWs and rails; in others, again, it's the railroad company.

For example, I'm pretty sure the Metra BNSF is actually a train that BNSF runs on behalf of Metra, or something, whereas I have a feeling that the Metra Electric is almost entirely Metra's property and responsibility. Disclaimer: I don't know. I'm guessing.

A fun project for today might be to figure this all out and then, I don't know, feel smug about it and be even more annoying at parties. Did you know, a few weeks ago I actually had a drunken argument with a guy who insisted that the South Shore Line was part of Metra. As if!

*For example, last Thursday night the cabin fever finally got to me, so I went to Union Station to take the BNSF to Rt. 59. I'd missed the evening rush period by about 20-30 minutes. As I recall, a couple of extra outbound express trains had been added to the BNSF schedule during the peak of the rush period, but those had departed hours ago by the time I got there. I also recall checking Metra's Web site website [gah, that feels weird!] and noting a delay or two among inbound BNSF trains, but as yet there were no outbound delays listed for that line.

The next BNSF train out, some 20 minutes in the future, was already delayed another 20. After 40 minutes, at which point a crowd the size of the population of a small rural town had gathered downstairs (and on the stairs, and down the corridor) near the platform, the train was delayed yet again. Another 10 or so minutes later the Important Person on the PA finally admitted that they simply did not know when the train was going to arrive. Possibly they were waiting on the very same inbound train that had been listed as delayed when I'd checked earlier and was now even more delayed.

(Later, Metra was to blame the delays on "signal, mechanical and equipment problems." Are there any other kinds of problems on a train?)

Anyway, there was a collective groan and a collective whipping out of mobile devices (have you ever heard a collective groan that huge? it was kind of neat), so I went back upstairs and slogged across the Loop to La Salle St. Station, where I arrived about 10 minutes before the next outbound Rock Island District train, which was sitting next to the platform all set to go. The trip to Joliet was without incident. (Indeed, it was so normal, regular, and downright boring as to unnerve me a little. Come on, people, didn't we just have an exciting blizzard? Why am I the only one wearing snowpants?)

Now, I realize that I was very lucky in that not only did I have someone with a car of his own to pick me up when I arrived, but since he had to drive to another town in order to pick me up at the usual station anyway (why do I always date the most inconvenient people imaginable? here am I, General Carlessness, with the boyfriend who has to drive a 30-mile round trip in order to pick me up at the nearest Metra station, through the most dangerously unbicyclable suburbs in all of Chicagoland; I hate myself, I really do), he was no more inconvenienced by simply having to drive to a different town.

Anyway, if your car is parked at Rt. 59, or your bike is parked in Naperville, or your carpool buddies are all waiting for you in Downers Grove, or the only Pace bus serving your neighborhood departs from Aurora Transportation Center (and in any case, the last one left hours ago), or the person waiting for you on the other end is not able and willing to drive all the way to another station for a different Metra line, then an indefinitely long delay on the BNSF is going to cause significant problems for you. In which case, an apology from Metra is most certainly well deserved. (Even if it was actually BNSF's fault. Was it?)

I know, this was a very long footnote. I'll write a separate post later to describe the bus ride through those eerie, fantastical, bus-high mounds of snow on Lake Shore Drive. Oh crap, I just did. Nevermind.


At 11 February, 2011 13:53, Blogger Eric Allix Rogers said...

You're right: Metra Electric is owned & operated by Metra, but BNSF is run by the railroad under contract to Metra. Some of the other lines are operated by Metra, but on tracks that they lease, I think. It's a muddle.

And, "collective grown"? Really?

At 11 February, 2011 13:56, Blogger Jennifer said...

Aw fucknuts.

At 11 February, 2011 13:57, Blogger Jennifer said...

The only thing I can do, and I'm bad at it. No wonder I can't get a job.

At 11 February, 2011 21:04, Blogger reub2000 said...

Don't forget that Union Pacific Railroad runs the former Northwestern commuter lines. I see modified UP pickup trucks running on the tracks, so I assume the UP is responsible for some maintenance on the tracks.

At 11 February, 2011 22:26, Blogger Jennifer said...

I also wonder if this accounts for the vastly different experiences that people have had with bikes on Metra. I know the conductor always has the final word, but if different railroads have different policies on what that final word should preferentially be, then it could be why some people bring bikes on board all the time with no problems while some people have never been able to depend on it.

(On the other hand, I also wonder if it's because some people foolishly assume that they can, say, bike all the way up to Milwaukee on a Sunday, spend the evening there, and then take the train back from Kenosha, without first checking that there is only one train that leaves from Kenosha on a Sunday and that it leaves rather early in the evening. Do people who live near L lines become too accustomed to trains just showing up every 15 minutes until midnight?)

But as I said on the Chainlink, while special bike cars would certainly be very nice, new engines, new viaducts, and especially new electric cars would be even nicer, assuming they ever have enough money for any of those things.


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