Metra fare hike-delay combo packs blizzard-sized punch

  • Metra experienced snow-related delays Monday, but not to the extent of 2014's polar vortex.

    Metra experienced snow-related delays Monday, but not to the extent of 2014's polar vortex. Mark Welsh/Daily Herald, January 2014

 
 
Updated 2/2/2015 6:52 PM

The blizzard of 2015 is history, but the snow it dumped on the area isn't, which is why Metra riders should brace for possible delays Tuesday, officials advised.

"Even though the snow has stopped and we've moved a lot of it, it's still on the trains and the risk of dropping into switches is high," spokeswoman Meg Reile said.

 

Metra has extra crews working to check switches and maintain trains following the weekend blizzard.

Monday's morning rush resulted in more than a dozen trains being canceled, delayed or combined with others as slowdowns ranged from 15 to 30 minutes. Trains were running late by 15 to 20 minutes during the afternoon commute, including on the Milwaukee West Line where a track obstruction caused problems.

The slippery conditions have resulted in nearly 10 cases of cars getting stuck on the tracks since the blizzard started, Reile said.

"We're advising motorists be careful when they're crossing the tracks -- it's not a good place to be stuck," she added.

Metra riders faced a one-two punch Monday of arctic weather and higher fares.

However, many passengers took a "could have been worse attitude," especially when compared to a service meltdown that occurred during the infamous polar vortex of January 2014.

Commuter Stacey Horcher's 7:31 a.m. train left Wheeling about 10 to 15 minutes late.

"Not horrible, but I sure wish I could've stayed home," she said.

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Steven Baldastri called his morning trip on the UP Northwest Line "not bad."

"The early trains were on time. We did slow down due to (another) train breaking down," Baldastri said, adding he arrived in Chicago about 15 minutes late.

Jason Manola found "the trains were actually pretty good this morning," with his Union Pacific West train running about 15 minutes late.

"(My) only issue, though, was the station was locked at Villa Park so therefore I had to stand out in the cold," Manola added.

Overall, "switching problems were the most common issue; the total snowfall, the powdery snow and the blowing conditions all were factors," Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said.

"On the BNSF line the longest delays were the result of a mechanical problem on train 1204, one of the first trains in the morning, which caught several trains behind it. On the Metra Electric there was a signal issue that caused delays of up to 20 minutes."

Metra raised fares Sunday by an average of 10.8 percent, meaning about a $21 increase, or 14 percent, for a monthly pass holder traveling between Lisle and downtown.

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