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updated: 2/21/2014 5:10 PM

Metra's Milwaukee North line deemed slowest during January weather woes

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  • Metra riders want more information about train delays when they occur.

      Metra riders want more information about train delays when they occur.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

Metra riders all suffered with delays during the polar vortex and other weather misery in January, but some suffered more than others.

Trains on the Milwaukee District North Line had the dubious distinction of being slowest last month with a 73.3 percent on-time performance, followed by the North Central Service with 75.8 percent on-time, the BNSF Line with 78.8 percent and the Heritage Corridor with 79.5 percent.

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The Milwaukee North's woes partially occurred because it's only a single track in part of Lake County.

"When delays occur, it's very difficult to recover," acting Chief Operations Officer Peter Zwolfer said at a Friday meeting.

The speediest line was Metra's Electric District, which unlike other routes is on raised platforms and has no interference from freight trains or grade crossings. The Electric District reported a 93.7 percent on-time average in January.

The worst day of the extreme weather was Jan. 6 when Metra reported a systemwide 30 percent on-time record.

Overall Metra reported 1,426 weather-related delays in January compared to 90 in 2013 and 235 freight train delays compared to 55 in 2013.

The agency is working on improving how it communicates with passengers after numerous complaints from riders about disconnects over delays and cancellations, Metra Executive Director Don Orseno said.

Some ideas include allowing riders to specify what time periods they want email notices for and consolidating service disruption alerts on Metra's website so people aren't inundated with information they don't want. Another plan is to provide more dynamic train status updates on Metra's Rail-Time Tracker.

Metra officials said they had been talking to commuter rail colleagues in Alaska, Canada and other cold-weather spots but had found no magic bullet to prevent service meltdowns.

"This extended, deep cold is what buried us in Chicago," acting Chief Engineer Bruce Marcheschi said.

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