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updated: 5/21/2012 6:47 PM

Commuters hope for normalcy after day of bag checks, coffee-less train rides

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  • A conductor looks to signal ahead as commuters boarded Monday at the Arlington Heights Metra station. Ridership was low compared to rush-hour norms on some lines.

       A conductor looks to signal ahead as commuters boarded Monday at the Arlington Heights Metra station. Ridership was low compared to rush-hour norms on some lines.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Robert Kot, left, of Naperville, asks Naperville police officer Arzania Williams, right, if his backpack will be allowed on the train Monday. Security was minimal at the Naperville Metra station, but bags were being checked at some downtown Metra hubs.

       Robert Kot, left, of Naperville, asks Naperville police officer Arzania Williams, right, if his backpack will be allowed on the train Monday. Security was minimal at the Naperville Metra station, but bags were being checked at some downtown Metra hubs.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • NATO summit traffic

    Graphic: NATO summit traffic

 
 

Protests and security issues sparked by the NATO summit deflated turnout on Metra lines Monday, while commuters had mixed experiences with screening and restrictions.

Tom Marszewski of Downers Grove had an easy ride back and forth to work in Chicago on the BNSF Line with no bag checks.

The travel experience "felt like a Sunday," he said.

Meanwhile, commuter Albert Curtis of Chicago's Hyde Park said restrictions on beverages and limits on carry-ons were enforced on Metra's Electric Line. Curtis didn't take any chances and traveled light, leaving his bag at home. "They would have confiscated it," he said.

During the NATO summit, which ended Monday, Metra temporarily banned liquids and food, prohibited passengers from carrying more than one bag apiece and closed several stations on its Electric Line, which runs under McCormick Place where world leaders were meeting.

Service will be back to normal today.

The low passenger numbers Monday were a repeat of Friday, riders said. Some Metra regulars characterized the trains as half empty, a reflection of many companies shutting down for a day or asking employees to work from home.

"People were talking on Friday about their offices being closed," Clarendon Hills commuter Ron Predovic said. He downsized his usual trip necessities, leaving his briefcase at home.

Security seemed to vary depending what Metra line you were traveling on and whether you were inbound into Chicago from a suburban station or outbound from one of the major Metra hubs.

On the BNSF line, some commuters said they didn't experience bag inspections or a huge police presence.

But it was a different story at Millennium Station, used for Metra's Electric Line. U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Transportation Security Administration, Cook County sheriff and Chicago police officers were everywhere.

Meanwhile, at the Ogilvie Transportation Center, authorities scrutinized passengers' bags as they boarded.

"I couldn't bring my coffee this morning," Union Pacific West Line commuter Peter Polushe noted, but "there was plenty of room."

"I have no complaints," the Warrenville resident said.

Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said Monday's commute had gone well. "We have had no security problems, and ridership has been very light, less than half of what we'd see on a normal weekday," he added.

In addition to a Metra security clampdown, traffic was snarled from time to time on expressways as motorcades of departing dignitaries headed for O'Hare International Airport.

"I'll be glad when this is over," one Cook County employee said Monday at the heavily guarded Daley Center in the Loop.

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