Peaceniks headed downtown to protest the NATO summit and hard-core baseball fans alike will need to leave the chai tea and Gatorade at home today as Metra begins a security clampdown.
The restrictions are in place through Monday when the 50 heads of state attending the NATO conference will jet out of Chicago, leaving thousands of irked commuters in their wake. The event also coincides with the White Sox/Cubs crosstown series.
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The most inconvenienced group will be South Siders as Metra plans to enforce shutdowns of some stations on the Electric Line and its branches. The Electric Line runs under McCormick Place where the summit will occur.
But Metra passengers on other lines can say goodbye to commuting as usual this weekend and Monday. Riders need to show up at least 15 minutes ahead of time and to expect security screenings that could range from pat-downs to bag inspections.
If you're the type who carries a laptop, purse and briefcase to work, it's time to downsize. Only one bag per person is allowed on trains for the three-day period.
Metra did lift its prohibition on liquids Thursday, allowing liquids up to 3 ounces. Parents are allowed to bring breast milk for infants, but it could be inspected.
Here are some other significant restrictions:
• All food is prohibited. Liquids in quantities greater than 3 ounces are banned.
• Big purses are out, with bags limited to those 15 inches square and 4 inches deep. Luggage, backpacks, boxes and bikes are forbidden.
• Also off-limits on trains are tools, stakes, pipes, wood or weapons such as pocket knives or pepper spray.
• Law enforcement officers traveling on Metra are asked to identify themselves and show credentials and any weapons.
• Security guards are not permitted to carry weapons.
Friday Metra announced that Electric Line riders could use their 10-ride passes at CTA stations and travel for free.
For more or to check on any changes, visit metrarail.com/metra/en/home.html.
Also, the Regional Transportation Authority encourages riders to call its travel information center for tips and updates on getting around during the summit. Call 836-7000 and use area codes 847, 815, 630, 708 or 224 instead of 312 and 773 because of the expected high volume of calls. The center is open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.