Metra apologizes for crammed trains on BNSF line after changes

 
 
Updated 6/12/2018 7:54 PM
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  • Metra BNSF passengers pack between trains at Union Station in Chicago to board Tuesday afternoon.

    Metra BNSF passengers pack between trains at Union Station in Chicago to board Tuesday afternoon. Courtesy of Carol Thompson

  • Changes to Metra's BNSF Line schedule aren't going down well with passengers on some overcrowded trains.

    Changes to Metra's BNSF Line schedule aren't going down well with passengers on some overcrowded trains. Daily Herald File Photo

Two days into its revised schedules on the BNSF Line, Metra is asking passengers to be patient about crammed trains.

"Please accept our apologies for the crowded conditions on some trains under the new BNSF line schedule," officials said Tuesday.

"We know with major schedule revisions that changes may be needed as our customers get used to the schedule and adopt new travel patterns. This includes adding cars to some trains by subtracting cars from other trains (since we have a finite number of railcars)."

BNSF passengers grabbed their smartphones and tweeted their chagrin about sardine-like conditions on some trains.

"No one can move anywhere," rider Arzu Bilazer tweeted on Monday. "And not only is it standing-room-only, it's a semi-sauna car."

Spokesman Michael Gillis said Tuesday the railroad is "adding cars to some inbound trains starting tomorrow morning. We are still studying the outbound trains -- we have only one day to go on so far."

The changes came as a result of installing an automatic braking system on trains, Metra planners said, that require more time to test the new technology each time a locomotive begins a new run.

A draft schedule released in March fell flat when more than 2,000 BNSF riders commented on the revisions.

Metra promised that passengers' concerns were being taken into consideration with the final schedule that was implemented Monday. The new timetable was also supposed to reduce overcrowding on rush-hour trains.

Metra and other railroads across the U.S. are installing Positive Train Control on equipment, tracks and locomotives to meet federal deadlines. The technology stops a train when a crash is imminent.

The schedule had to be altered because crews are required to start up and check PTC before each new train run, a process that can take about six minutes, officials said.

"We would first ask for your patience," Metra leaders said. "We have started to make adjustments, but we want to base major changes on more than just a few days' experiences. We are monitoring the situation very closely."

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