The Chainlink

So last Friday I am returning to home from Waukegan via Metra (which I was a fan of until this story) and the ornry train conductor tells me I CANNOT take my bike with me due to Lollapalooza. I ask him how I was allowed to take it on this morning to get here and he tells me that was up to the discretion of the conductor. I ask him if he can wait for me to lock up my bike and replys to me- if you hadn't been arguing with me this whole time you could have already been back on the train- and proceeds to leave without me.

Since the train only comes once an hour, I decided that a 40 mile commute home in the rain on my bike was the only acceptable alternative. What is wrong with people that the only power they can wield is over people and their bikes... PATHETIC. Never the less, just under 2.5 hrs later (with a head wind of course) I managed to get home. BASTARDS!

My wife has had similar problems with CTA drivers- now I am not dissing your job but come on- you don't need to treat people as if you lord over the world.

Oh and another thing- how many times am I almost going to get run over by bus driver trying to pull up to his next stop 2 seconds quicker by cutting me off every couple of stops???

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Chucko said:
As a regular rider of Metra, I know they do have some strange rules regarding bikes on trains. But to be honest, the rules are pretty well advertised, including blackout days- they make announcements at the stations, on the website, and frequently have signs up at the stations.
I also think Rubani is on to something- current ridership isn't really forcing them to be more accommodating to bikers since there are so few of us. What I think would really fix the problem is a section of the car allocated ONLY to bikes, such as they have on Caltrain cars in California. There is a section of a car with seats removed to be used only for bikes. That being said, we'd have to lobby as riders of Metra for that to happen, and with as few bikes on trains as I usually see while on the train I just don't see that happening.

The problem is not getting Metra interested, it's finding funding models to add new bike cars to the train sets, add platform extensions to accomodate said train extensions, and everything else that surrounds it. Sure, this isn't a big deal during off-peak service. You just add a car onto the end of a 4 car train or whatever. But if we're talking rush hour service, it's impossible to add a car on an 8 car train without a complete overhaul of every platform to ensure they're long enough (or to train the crew on how to open the doors properly, notify passengers, etc.).

If there is interest, you can get time in front of the Metra board to propose ideas, but it needs to be a very well thought out proposal with funding ideas, etc. ATA, isn't this your area?

Matt, you mentioned: "If it had been up to his discretion why couldn't he have allowed me on the train until he felt it was getting too full?".

Part of the problem is that trains fill up quick, especially downtown at stations. There's really little time to egress a passenger with a bike during the last 1-2 minutes of boarding (it gets crazy down there at rush hour). Again, the conductor didn't have to be a dick; he should have told you to go lock up your bike and take the next train politely.
I agree with you- just worded my reply a little strangely in retrospect. I agree that it is a problem of funding and infrastructure- a problem that really isn't much of a problem if you consider that probably 99.5% of Metra's riders don't bring their bikes on the train, and those folks aren't asking for any bike accomodations.

And I completely agree that Metra provides the bikes space as a courtesy, one that they are not obligated to extend.

vxla said:

The problem is not getting Metra interested, it's finding funding models to add new bike cars to the train sets, add platform extensions to accomodate said train extensions, and everything else that surrounds it. Sure, this isn't a big deal during off-peak service. You just add a car onto the end of a 4 car train or whatever. But if we're talking rush hour service, it's impossible to add a car on an 8 car train without a complete overhaul of every platform to ensure they're long enough (or to train the crew on how to open the doors properly, notify passengers, etc.).

If there is interest, you can get time in front of the Metra board to propose ideas, but it needs to be a very well thought out proposal with funding ideas, etc. ATA, isn't this your area?

Matt, you mentioned: "If it had been up to his discretion why couldn't he have allowed me on the train until he felt it was getting too full?".

Part of the problem is that trains fill up quick, especially downtown at stations. There's really little time to egress a passenger with a bike during the last 1-2 minutes of boarding (it gets crazy down there at rush hour). Again, the conductor didn't have to be a dick; he should have told you to go lock up your bike and take the next train politely.
I think the lawsuit had to do with accepting credit cards? I don't think anything about bikes on trains has changed recently as far as I know. The bikes on trains program started several years ago now, long before Quinn was the gov. (I've been a regular rider on Metra for going on 7 years now...)

h3 said:

And I completely agree that Metra provides the bikes space as a courtesy, one that they are not obligated to extend.


Not sure about that . . . it was Pat Quinn's threat of a lawsuit that got them to cave after years of resistance-- the implication being that there is some sort of legal obligation tgo allow bikes.
Pat Quinn introduced legislation that forced Metra to allow bikes on trains:

http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectI...
I stand corrected. Thanks for the link!

envane x said:
Pat Quinn introduced legislation that forced Metra to allow bikes on trains:

http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectI...
i feel for ya, but i also mark my calendar every year according to the metra bike blackout days. nevertheless, there are still crowded days and power-tripping conductors.

last year i got denied during the first day of the air & water show even though it wasn't a black out day. at the time of my return home, the train was bursting at the seams and the conductor said i couldn't get on. i understand...to an extent...but would they decline a wheelchair?

personally, the conductors should be allowed to allow you on if it's not that busy, even during a blackout day (since they can kick you off at anytime when it starts getting crowded (this almost happened to me during a whitesox game and bears pre-season night l ast year).

however, 99% of the time, i love being able to take my bike on the train. i especially like conductor wayne, who take 2 seconds to remind each biker that there is blackout date coming up. he's awesome.

as for busses...i try and wave at them and smile when they do good...which is 99% of the time.
i always imagine a metra car without a 2nd story row on one side, and instead have hanging bikes with folding seats underneath for when bikes aren't hanging.


M.A.R.K. said:
As far as Metra, I wouldn't ask for a full car just for bikes as I don't think enough riders would fill up a whole car. But perhaps the ripping out of a row or two of seats to make room for bikes to slide in and pile up left to right vs. front to back in the handicap accessible area on trains. While I am sure peak hour ridership of Metra would increase, I am not sure of how much it would as far as bikes on trains, at least where I live. I assume most of the people who ride to the train out here(Arlington Heights.Park, Palatine areas) work in the loop or near their stops within walking distance leaving no reason to bring their bikes on trains. But I guess little poll flyers could be printed up, or a day of action could be organized to ask cyclists and commuters alike of their travel habits.

Also.. Don't forget bikes banned on Metra this Saturday and Sunday for the Air and Water Show..

As far as hating public transportation, I don't. I just wish there was more of it available to me where I live. We have one train, and only two, maybe three time restricted bus lines that run through Arlington Heights and only hitting major destinations(Eg. Des Plaines depot, Woodfield Mall) leaving folks no other option but to drive. I always throw out the option to ride a bike but people don't seem willing to listen. Case in point, one of my couple failed Taco Tuesday rides. I was talking to a commuter who was heading home and grabbing his bike from the train station about the ride. Told him that I didn't know what his plans were, but that we were having a Taco Tuesday ride and were heading out to Wheeling and back. And he replied with some enthusiasm. all that way just by bike?!?!?!?! I replied back, yeah! It's only about ten miles or so round trip, social pace so nobody is left behind and so everyone who wants to can join. He was amazed and was wondering about the route and how we would get there. Sadly, he didn't come back to find out.
Well put, H3.

h3 said:
I have almost universally found CTA drivers accomodating in terms of bikes.
Do you have any specifics about your wife's experiences?
Regarding the buses you seem to playing leapfrog with-- no way you could either stay ahead of them or let them stay ahead of you?
Sorry you didn't get the blackout info about Metra, but we need public transportation and a blanket slam of it doesn't help anyone.
Could a standard rail car, with brackets to hold bicycles, be added to the end of a subway train to haul bicycles? Entry through the next car?
Well all these ideas sound great but........
It seems that none of you seem to remember that the rta is in a major budget crunch! i.e the constant looming of a cta doomsday! The rta funds both the cta and metra.

There are currently 11 metra lines that a minium of 8 train constent sets per line.
that means almost 100 train cars you want rebuilt to suit your cycling needs.
I'm sure most of you are unaware how ungodly expensive it is to rebuilt or remodel a train car none the less build a new one. Hello have any of you ridden Amtrak latley? There is a reason they are still running cars that are over 25 years old!

I am all for bringing bikes on trains but remember we are the minority on the train. We are only the faction of the people they move on a daily baisis.

If ya want new or improved bike space on a train beprepared to open your wallet to higher taxes!
Jen - I certainly don't expect to see all these kind of changes now in this economic climate, and I don't think that most of us do. However, if we start speaking up now, changes can be phased in as new train cars are purchased or old ones are rehabbed.

jen said:
Well all these ideas sound great but........
It seems that none of you seem to remember that the rta is in a major budget crunch! i.e the constant looming of a cta doomsday! The rta funds both the cta and metra.

There are currently 11 metra lines that a minium of 8 train constent sets per line.
that means almost 100 train cars you want rebuilt to suit your cycling needs.
I'm sure most of you are unaware how ungodly expensive it is to rebuilt or remodel a train car none the less build a new one. Hello have any of you ridden Amtrak latley? There is a reason they are still running cars that are over 25 years old!

I am all for bringing bikes on trains but remember we are the minority on the train. We are only the faction of the people they move on a daily baisis.

If ya want new or improved bike space on a train beprepared to open your wallet to higher taxes!

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