Today’s Headlines at Monday, April 9

  • Increase in Traffic, Pedestrian Stops by U. of C. Police, Racial Disparities (Chicago Reporter)
  • Blackhawks Honor 15 Canadian Hockey Players Killed in Saskatchewan Crash (Tribune)
  • Driver Opens Door on Cyclist, 14, in Logan Square, Critically Injuring Him (Sun-Times)
  • Duckworth Blocks Republican Attempt to Gut Americans With Disabilities Act (Rewire.News)
  • Experts Discuss Why Having Humans Monitor Self-Driving Cars Is Unsafe (Tribune)
  • Metra’s PTC Plan Calls for Fewer Morning Expresses From Hinsdale to Loop (Tribune)
  • The Yard Social Club Proposes a New, User-Friendly Metra Map
  • Mundelein Refines Plans for Pedestrian Bridge Near Metra Station (Tribune)
  • Urbana Could Become the 2nd Illinois City With Dockless Bike-Share (News-Gazette)
  • There’s a New Sound-Triggered Light Installation at the North/Damen Stop (Sun-Times)
  • Fill out an Online Form to Support the Bike Walk Education in Schools Act (Chainlink)
  • Steelworkers Pilgrimage Bike Tour of SE Side, NW Indiana on 4/21 (NWI.com)

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  • Cameron Puetz

    RE: Metra’s PTC Plan Calls for Fewer Morning Expresses From Hinsdale to Loop
    Based on quotes from the Metra spokesmen, it sounds like Metra considered trains arriving after 9:00 to be a replacement for rush hour express trains that arrived between 8:00 and 8:30. Is Metra really that tone deaf on commuters needs?

  • Carter O’Brien

    RE: the dooring on the 2600 block of Armitage, anyone know if that stretch has the rush hour parking controls? The story didn’t mention a ticket for being illegally parked so I’d imagine not, but one of these days we are going to see a tragedy come out of this laissez faire approach to traffic management.

    (this is in Logan Square btw, the cut off for Humboldt is the Bloomingdale Trail)

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Thanks, edited.

  • As a regular Metra rider on multiple lines for basically my entire life, I am having the heck confused out of me by that naming system. But if there’s anything a Metra monthly pass holder hates, it’s anything the slightest bit new and different, so that that with pile of salt, I guess.

  • rwy

    The proposal is based on the New York Subway, which is definitely not easy to understand.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    While we’re on the subject, how about (wherever possible) identifying ‘L’ stations by both cross streets, as is already the case with stops like North/Clybourn and Clark/Division?

  • Anne A

    That would be too logical. ;)

    On a related note, something that’s never made sense to me is the naming of the Rock Island station at 95th & Vincennes as “95th/Longwood.” The station that is actually *close* to 95th & Longwood is called “95th/Beverly Hills.” #MetraLogic

  • Anne A

    Apparently they are.

  • Cameron Puetz

    One thing I like about the current Metra naming system is many of the names give some hint where the trains go. The UP North goes north, the Southwest Service goes southwest, etc. Their proposed naming system gives people who know the code lots of information quickly, but doesn’t tell people who don’t know the code anything. A naming system that requires a decoder isn’t doing infrequent riders any favors.

  • Cameron Puetz

    Or the UP-N/UP-NW Clybourn station that’s on the other side of the river from Clybourn.

  • Tooscrapps

    And the BNSF goes both north & south friend.

  • planetshwoop

    re: mundelein

    “Canadian National doesn’t want those at-grade crossings anymore,” Orenchuk said. “For safety and liability reasons, they prefer to keep people away from the tracks.”

    This is a really frustrating trend among railroads. I get it — railroads bear some of the liability if someone rushes across the tracks and gets smooshed. But it is horrid how long many of the crossings have become since they’ve eliminated the at-grade ones.

    UP-NW is the one I’m most familiar with. The Irving Park station eliminated the at grade crossing. So customers have to walk an enormous length until the underpass to get over to the bus stop or el station. And it’s happened on other stops (cary comes to mind).

    At grade crossings indeed can be dangerous, but the huge inconvenience to customers is a problem too.

  • Michael Gillis

    The current schedule has eight trains that arrive downtown between 7:12 a.m. and 8:51 am, including four express. The proposed schedule has eight trains that arrive downtown between 7:08 a.m and 9:03 a.m, including two express and two semi-express (two extra stops for Hinsdale customers). I simply told the Tribune reporter that some of the people who now take the train that arrives at 8:51 a.m. might be able to take the train that arrives at 9:03 a.m. It’s a 12-minute difference, not the 30-plus minutes you are imagining.

  • Michael Gillis

    No, we’re not. See above.

  • Michael Gillis

    Here’s the reason for that: Early Chicago maps show Clybourn ended its northwest diagonal run from
    Division Street at the point where it meets Racine. It then turned
    directly west, crossing the river and ending at what is now Damen. When
    in later years the northwest diagonal of Clybourn was extended
    (eventually to Belmont), the east-west section that crossed the river
    was renamed Clybourn Place. That section was later given its current
    name, Cortland Street, after the street that it almost lines up with at
    Damen.

  • rohmen

    Considering the benchmark for many is the need to be in the office by 9 a.m., it doesn’t really matter if we’re talking about 12 minutes or 30. Metra is still effectively taking a lot of people out of the window they need to get to work on time.

  • Cameron Puetz

    It could be sloppy editing by the Tribune, but these paragraphs made it seem like the 8:41 train was viewed as a replacement for the lost earlier trains:

    The new schedule would have an 8 a.m. train stop in Hinsdale, but it would not be express. It would make six stops, including the Highlands, Western Springs and La Grange Road, before arriving at Union Station at 8:35 a.m.

    Gillis expects the new 8:41 a.m. express from Hinsdale would be an acceptable alternative to commuters’ whose existing train is eliminated or its schedule is changed.

  • Michael Gillis

    There are still seven other trains that those customers can use, and some of them will probably still be able to use the eighth. We are doing the best we can within the constraints we have to minimize the impact of these changes.

  • Michael Gillis

    As I said, I only told their reporter that some people might still be able to use that 8:41 a.m train.

  • Dennis McClendon

    Archibald Clybourn had a stockyard and slaughterhouse in the area during the very early history of Chicago. Clybourn Avenue, Clybourn Place (now Cortland Street), and Clybourn Junction on the Chicago & North Western Railway all took the name.

  • Cameron Puetz

    It’s still a reduction in service for an area that’s used to good service. That’s always going to generate push back, especially when the reasons aren’t clearly explained. When you look at what PTC does, it’s not clear why implementing it would require service reductions. Downplaying the service reduction isn’t going to win people over. To win people over, recognize why they’re upset and explain why explain why a service reduction is needed.

  • Michael Gillis

    Of course we knew this change would upset people. That’s why we have tried to explain the reason for the change as best we can. That’s why we made the video/created a webpage and why we have made announcements, sent alerts and tweets, and posted signs on trains and stations urging people to watch the video. Go to metrarail.com/ptc to view it, and urge others to do so too. We’re trying to do just what you advocate to win people over. And I did not downplay anything – I answered the question you asked about whether i suggested something tone deaf.

  • crosspalms

    I was going to ask why I can’t bring my bikes and my cats on Metra during rush hour, but it looks like you’re busy, so I’ll come back later.
    Chris Whitehead

  • Jacob Wilson

    Looking at you: Sheridan, Irving Park, Irving Park…

  • what_eva

    Thanks to Dennis and Michael I now know why it’s called Clybourn, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t have been renamed many, many years ago to Armitage or Elston or Bucktown or something.

  • Cameron Puetz

    The name is an interesting nod to history, but also confusing.

  • Cameron Puetz

    The video did help clear things up. It’s not immediately obvious why a system to automatically apply the brakes would require service reductions. Maybe its been better publicized on the BNSF (I’m primarily a UP-N rider), but as someone who follows transit and engineering issues, this is the first I’ve seen of a reason beyond funding that PTC would lead to service reductions.

    I understand that you have a tough job often having to be the bearer of bad news. That news would be better revived if you started with the explanation of why it was necessary before downplaying the impacts. Like the women quoted above you in the Tribune article said, “Passengers might accept the changes better if they understood the reason for them was safety.”

  • Michael Gillis

    We did start with the explanation and we haven’t downplayed the impacts. You might agree if you read/viewed our materials first before reading the Pioneer Press article.

  • craterlet

    @disqus_nsMzpZcXDD:disqus, you can’t control in what order people read about your announcement. All you can do is to try to get in front of the story and it looks like that — for whatever reason — didn’t happen.

    In my opinion, the larger issue here is how it (potentially) reveals how inflexible Metra’s culture is. I watched the video after you posted the link. In that video, we learn about the physical acts required to flip a train as well as some procedural activities. The narrative goes that the schedule has to change because PTC requires additional steps, so it takes longer to flip the train. However, was any attempt made to streamline the procedural steps (safety meeting, staff assignments, etc)? Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, but it seems to me that it shows that Metra would rather degrade its service and inconvenience its riders than push back against its cultural inertia.

    And don’t get me started on the video’s claim that PTC requires a bespoke system when an international standard approach has been in use in Europe since the 1990s….

  • BlueFairlane

    Thing is, I’m not going to go watch a video. I suspect most casual users of your service are not going to go watch a video, so if there’s something in that video you think it’s important for people to know, you should probably use whatever media opportunities you have to explain that thing instead of grumping, “Well, you’d know if you’d just watch the video.”

    Now, it’s fine to have the video for people who do want to go to that kind of effort, but complaining that people who don’t watch the video just don’t understand comes off a little arrogant.

  • Michael Gillis

    I agree I sounded snitty. I didn’t mean to. I only meant that if you read what we have put out, and if you, yes, watch the video, you’ll come away with a better understanding than if you relied on the Pioneer Press article. We are trying our best to explain why we are doing this and what we are doing.

  • Cameron Puetz

    I’m one of the small group of transportation geeks who actually watch that kind of video. I was several rounds of comments into this discussion, and getting frustrated with the non answers before I knew that the video even existed. Metra is counting on people to actively seek out this information rather than use their media exposure to put it out there.

  • Michael Gillis

    Sorry, but that’s just not right. We are pushing this info out as much as we can – website, press release to all Chicago media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, announcements on the train, newsletter on the train, schedules on the trains, signs on the trains, signs in the stations, etc. What media exposure do you think we have that we are not using?

  • Cameron Puetz

    You’re not using your media exposure effectively. Case in point, the Tribune article that started this discussion had a confusing quote about what the expected impacts impacts would be and no information about why PTC increases the time to flip a train and requires service reductions. That information was buried in a video that wasn’t mentioned in your statements. Then on this thread where you’re primary speaking to a transit friendly audience, you’ve come off has defensive and dismissive. It wasn’t until several layers into this thread that you pointed to the video that explains why service reductions are necessary.

    If that video is how Metra wants to explain why PTC is causing service reductions, you need to push that video harder in your media exposure. When you engage people in comment threads, mention it earlier. When you speak to the media summarize it and tell people where to look for more information. Also note that there will always be people who would rather read something than watch a video and many people will rely on what they read in the press, so you need to push your message when speaking to the press.

    I’m taking the time to comment on this because I love train travel, see the importance of Metra to the region, and want it to succeed. However, despite my enthusiasm for trains, I also share some of the common frustrations with Metra (such as the cultural resistance to change @craterlet:disqus mentioned below). Announcements can seem dense and decisions arbitrary, which undermines support for Metra. When announcing an unpopular change, you need to get ahead of the story with why the change was needed.