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Casten is first candidate out of the gate with Metra response

Tuesday, Aug 28, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is smart politics if it can lead to some news coverage and maybe a TV ad or mailer…

FOLLOWING METRA DELAYS, SEAN CASTEN & REP. CHERI BUSTOS MEET TO TALK INFRASTRUCTURE

Sean Casten & Rep. Cheri Bustos Host a Roundtable Discussion with Industry Experts on Infrastructure Needs in Illinois and the 6th Congressional District

TODAY, August 28, 2018 - 6th District Congressional Candidate Sean Casten and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos will lead a discussion on investing in Illinois and the 6th District’s infrastructure. They will be joined by leaders from the public transit, labor, and other transportation industry experts.

Following delays and overcrowding that plagued Metra’s commuter network Monday, today’s discussion takes on a sense of urgency.

Cheri Bustos serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Subcommittee on Aviation, and as the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Co-Chair.

WHO: Sean Casten; 6th District Congressional Candidate; Cheri Bustos, Congresswoman 17th District; Jack Franks, McHenry County Chairman; Steve Schlickman, Former Exec. Director of the Regional Transportation Authority; Kristi Lafleur, Former Exec. Director of the IL Tollway; Bob Guy, Legislative Director SMART Transportation Division; Debbie Halvorson, Owner American Eagle Logistics & Former Member of Congress.

WHAT: Roundtable discussion on investing in infrastructure in Illinois and the 6th Congressional District.

WHEN: TODAY, Tuesday, August 28, 2018
12:45 to 1:45pm CT

WHERE: SMART Headquarters
205 Alexandra Way, Carol Stream, IL 60188

This may have been planned in advance and they just got “lucky” with the timing, but it’s something that directly impacts the daily lives of thousands of Illinoisans. More officeholders and candidates ought to be weighing in about this stuff.

* Coverage…

* Tribune: Metra trains snarled at Union Station after signal problems: Signal problems during the height of evening rush hour have halted and canceled multiple Metra trains, according to agency alerts on the website and Twitter.

* NBC 5: Service Disruption Reported on Metra BNSF Line: A night of commuter chaos for thousands of Metra riders. Train problems caused major delays for the second Monday night in a row.

* CBS 2: Commuter Gridlock At Union Station As Signal Problems Hit Metra Trains

* Daily Herald: Metra expected to be back to normal Tuesday after Monday meltdown: “The conditions were a madhouse, to put it extremly lightly,” BNSF rider David Keating of Aurora said. “I enter Union Station in the evenings through the Madison Street entrance, and once I got into the actual station, it was a mob scene right away.

* E-mail from a longtime reader…

Was on the train that started the problem tonight.

We were told we went through a red signal (the train was still in Union enough that we had three cars on the platform).

They said they needed to get a replacement crew, and a bunch of better dressed folks showed up including one with a measuring wheel.

At various times they said it would be 10-15 minutes and we would be rolling. They also tweeted that we would be departing shortly, one hour after departure they canceled the train.

I eventually got off and am taking an uber home. […]

Yeah Metra has funding issues but to be blunt it seems like they have internalized it and it is now their excuse for everything.

Also for what it is worth, that would have been an Amtrak switch, not a Metra or BNSF switch.

       

34 Comments
  1. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 10:48 am:

    Debbie Halvorson… that’s a blast from the past


  2. - RentAScooter - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 10:51 am:

    My dad was stuck in that mess last night. He’s normally not very political, but two mondays in a row was enough for him to start asking me what politicians/board was in charge of the situation. He’s fired up and I’m sure everyone else using Union Station is sick of it.


  3. - Anon - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 10:59 am:

    Maybe Metra should start telling people what fares would need to be to address the backlog, bring the system to a state of good repair, and run the system efficiently? We’ve heard the refrain about needing billions more so many times that it has just become white noise. If they’re faced with the real prospect of higher fares, maybe enough pressure will build to actually do something.


  4. - Not 10:59 - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:03 am:

    But what’s the alternative? Higher fares or…

    Seems like the alternative is worse and deteriorating service. Given that choice, higher fares seems alright.


  5. - Jeff - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:05 am:

    Riders have endured rate hike after rate hike, and the service — especially on the BNSF line, which I use — is consistent only in how delayed it is. It’s an issue that impacts thousands and thousands of riders, as well as their families/spouses who are left to pick up the slack of child care in the wake of these delays. I’m surprised, frankly, more Chicagoland and statewide officeholders haven’t been more vocal.


  6. - Red Ranger - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:06 am:

    This is a great move. BNSF woes are a big topic in my town, and people aren’t happy. If you don’t have a monthly pass its now $11 round trip from Zone C, throw on another $3 or so for parking, driving doesn’t seem like that bad of an option given BNSF problems.


  7. - BobO - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:10 am:

    I am sure that Amazon would consider transportation infrastructure to be important…


  8. - Long Time R - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:19 am:

    Ever since Rham put Marty Oberman in to cut the budget every year things got worse and worse. Now Oberman just landed himself another part time transportation gig paying a 180k thanks to Lipinski. Metra problems just didn’t start last Monday


  9. - Huh? - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:20 am:

    Metra doesn’t own any of the tracks it operates on. The tracks are owned by the freight companies. Maintaining the equipment is their responsibility.


  10. - Anon316 - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:24 am:

    I’d rather stand in Union Station in the heat for 1.25 hours with a mass of people, which I did last night, than vote for Sean Casten.


  11. - Real - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:29 am:

    I’d rather stand in Union Station in the heat for 1.25 hours with a mass of people, which I did last night, than vote for Sean Casten

    -Because it’s better to vote against your best interest.


  12. - ChrisB - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:30 am:

    Kinda surprised Rep. Lipinski isn’t on there. He’s considered the train guy in Congress. Something like 90% of all US train traffic runs through his district.

    I ride the BNSF. We’re in year four of a ten year rate increase. It’d be nice if we actually saw improvements. Instead, they give the Metra CEO a 10# raise every year. Meanwhile, those braintrusts decide to experiment with their busiest line instead of starting on smaller lines and working out PTC kinks. There are cars whose AC is broken, so they pump hot air on 90 degree days. Broken seats abound. Delays, delays and more delays. The “95% On Time” is a joke. It’s not a weighted average, doesn’t take into account canceled trains, and trains up to 6 minutes late are considered “On Time”.

    For all these headaches, we get excuses Metra is NEVER at fault. Last week, it was the freight lines who called in the Tornado. Yesterday it was Amtrak. Someone quipped on twitter that for a train company, Metra was really good at throwing everyone else under a bus.

    The politician who fixes Metra will never face a real opponent ever again.


  13. - Terry Salad - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:31 am:

    I ride the CTA (Blue Line) where the delays are an almost daily occurrence. I waited more than an hour on the platform during rush hour last week. The suburban commuters are getting a taste of what ignoring infrastructure and public transportation does. I’d like to hear more from people running for office on what they intend to do. I’d like to see some of them ride these trains, too.


  14. - Bogey Golfer - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:35 am:

    Ironically, the current RTA Chairman frequently rides the Metra BNSF line.


  15. - phocion - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:40 am:

    Perhaps the riders can ask Senator Durbin why Metra is being forced to spend $400 million on Positive Train Control technology instead of using those scarce resources to improve reliability and safety through capital upgrades?


  16. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 12:00 pm:

    Politically smart, but as a Metra rider who was stuck last night I’d rather see these officials and candidates calling hearings and/or firing off nasty letters to the actual, current RTA and Metra officials instead of roundtabling with former ones.


  17. - OneMan - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 12:04 pm:

    Metra doesn’t own any of the tracks it operates on. The tracks are owned by the freight companies. Maintaining the equipment is their responsibility.

    It appears Metra does own some track
    https://metrarail.com/sites/default/files/assets/metra_state_of_the_system_2016_reduced.pdf (see page 10 of the PDF file, page 4 of the doc and page 13 of the PDF, 7 of the doc)

    The switch thing is just one part of it.
    The BNSF line is one of the ‘purchased service’ lines, so the trains are operated by employees of the BNSF, not Metra. I spoke with someone from and asked if there were any “consequences” for rail operators when it came to issues. If they would be subject to penalties or anything else for service issues, I was told no. So if you provide these services to Metra, there isn’t really any incentive to ‘get it right’.

    The communication issue:
    Metra fails (and I do not use that lightly) at being able to communicate what is going on when there is an issue. That is a big part of the reason you have the overcrowding at Union Station when there are issues. Because when Metra gives one of it’s generic issue statements (switch issue, signal issue, passenger loading, crew availability, aka the wheel of excuses) don’t give you enough detail to decide to go have a beer someplace instead of trying your luck at the station.

    When they do communicate it is often incorrect (see last weeks tornado warning, which their staff at the station didn’t know about, but was shared on social media) or even yesterday’s issue and they often communicate late. You can be sitting on a train that is stopped for 15~20 minutes before they even say why. Even then your conductor will tell you one thing and then Metra’s social media will say something else entirely.

    Metra puts issues into buckets and sticks with the bucket with no additional detail. However, if it turns out it was an Amtrak issue, they will offer full details of what happened, you never get that when it is a Metra issue or an issue with one of the rail lines.

    There is a big incentive to be part of the station crowd when things go bad:

    Having been a long time metra commuter (20 years) generally unless it is an equipment issue with the equipment issue, trains at the platforms at Union will depart at some point. However subsequent trains are less likely to operate, so your best bet to take the train home on your line is to get on a crowded train that is already at the station. Otherwise, you may find out the hourly local is canceled later and you now have to wait 2 hours to get home. Again if you are on equipment and it doesn’t have an issue odds are you are getting home at some point.

    Metra seems to view its self as a ‘you really don’t have a choice option’:
    It is really the only thing that explains parts of how it does customer service (see the above in large part), from running out of tickets at the vending machines, long lines, generic responses to complaints and the constant reminding about their underfunding it seems they have given up.

    They have taken the attitude that PTC (a system intended to keep me a rider from getting killed) is an unfunded mandate and inconvenience for them. Can you imagine an airline constantly griping to their customers about some safety improvement they had to make?

    I have joked about this, but if anyone else in my life apologized to me nearly as much at Metra we would be in therapy together.

    I get it, they are underfunded and they have been raising my fares for years in response. But some of this isn’t funding, it is just deciding to stop trying.


  18. - OneMan - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 12:09 pm:

    Perhaps the riders can ask Senator Durbin why Metra is being forced to spend $400 million on Positive Train Control technology instead of using those scarce resources to improve reliability and safety through capital upgrades?

    TC will prevent:

    Train-to-train collisions.
    Derailments caused by excessive speed.
    Unauthorized train movement onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place.
    Movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/28/503642285/feds-say-railroads-making-slow-progress-on-revolutionary-braking-system

    I am down with not getting killed.


  19. - Anon316 - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 12:10 pm:

    Real - If my interests including allowing abortions up until birth and thinking that abortion was like gall bladder surgery, then, yes, Casten would be my guy.


  20. - SaulGoodman - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 12:27 pm:

    **Kinda surprised Rep. Lipinski isn’t on there. He’s considered the train guy in Congress. Something like 90% of all US train traffic runs through his district.**

    He probably didn’t get Trump’s permission?


  21. - supplied_demand - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 12:39 pm:

    ==Real - If my interests including allowing abortions up until birth and thinking that abortion was like gall bladder surgery, then, yes, Casten would be my guy.==

    Is this how real humans think about actual issues? Did you see when Casten said this about abortion or did you just ignore it?:

    “I don’t want anybody to have to have one. I can’t imagine the pain that someone would go through to do that.”


  22. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 12:52 pm:

    ==Positive Train Control ==

    You speak of this as if it’s some big waste of money. Do you know what PTC does? Apparently not. I think a system that could prevent accidents is worth it. Apparently that’s not really a big deal to you.


  23. - Pundent - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 1:29 pm:

    =Is this how real humans think about actual issues? Did you see when Casten said this about abortion or did you just ignore it?:=

    Real humans (whatever that is) can walk and chew gum at the same time. Casten did a poor job of describing his pro choice views. But I’ve heard over the top rhetoric from the right to life side as well.

    At a basic level we should expect a government that collects the revenue required to effectively and efficiently discharge their responsibilities. I can understand the passion around abortion on both sides of the equation, but it will never be the singular issue that decides who gets my vote.


  24. - JB13 - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 1:34 pm:

    Has anyone asked the Gov-allbutelect what he intends to do to fix this? Is this another deep, structural problem that will be instantly corrected when ol’ JBP raises his right hand? Or do we need the progressive income tax first? I lose track of which magical solution will fix which problems, and in which order…


  25. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 1:41 pm:

    =Or do we need the progressive income tax first? I lose track of which magical solution will fix which problems, and in which order.=
    Money is needed. Not magic. The current governor can do something too.


  26. - DuPage - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 1:57 pm:

    @- Huh? - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 11:20 am:

    ===Metra doesn’t own any of the tracks it operates on. The tracks are owned by the freight companies. Maintaining the equipment is their responsibility.===

    Metra might own SOME of the tracks? I am confused about why I see all the “No Trespassing Metra Property” signs along the tracks around Elgin. I was told once that the railroad sold the land and tracks to Metra and have some sort of 99 year leaseback/buyback option. This supposedly saves the railroad from paying property tax on the Metra-owned property, and Metra itself is a public agency that pays no property tax.


  27. - Anon316 - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 2:03 pm:

    Supplied demand - I saw the video, and watching everything he said was even worse! He is for no limits on abortion and for repealing the Hyde Amendment. I have no doubt believing that he thinks abortion is no different than gall bladder surgery. His comment that he doesn’t want women to have them rings hollow, especially in the context of his extreme far left wing views on abortion.


  28. - Arsenal - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 2:17 pm:

    ==Has anyone asked the Gov-allbutelect what he intends to do to fix this?==

    Has anyone asked the actual Governor, or are we too busy making sure the Party of Personal Responsibility never actually has to face any responsibility?


  29. - Amalia - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 3:01 pm:

    this is fantastic and should be replicated elsewhere. Love that Steve Schlickman is involved.very interesting. hope they did video and posted somewhere.


  30. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 3:03 pm:

    I have joked about this, but if anyone else in my life apologized to me nearly as much at Metra we would be in therapy together.

    “It’s not you — it’s Metra.”

    – MrJM


  31. - BlueDogDem - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 3:31 pm:

    Chicago and surrounding counties should be expanding the use of horse drawn carriages,not eliminating them.


  32. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 4:18 pm:

    What does abortion have to do with Metra?


  33. - Stuntman Bob's Brother - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 5:58 pm:

    Sounds like Metra’s problem is similar to the pension problem, in that fares should have been maybe five percent higher on the last 70 billion or so passenger-miles, to keep up with infrastructure repairs. Now they’ve got a $12B backlog, which will be foisted upon future riders and taxpayers, many of whom were not even residents while the tab got ever-larger. Who’s been running this state for the last thirty years, anyway? Oh, yeah…


  34. - HawkeyeForEver - Tuesday, Aug 28, 18 @ 6:15 pm:

    The Sean Casten campaign has posted a video of the discussion on its Facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/castenforcongress/videos/458125858040530/


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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