Rock on with Metra to Lollapalooza, but not in rush hour
Metra regulars heading to the daily grind and exuberant Lollapalooza fans don't mix well -- and there's no reason they should have to, officials said as the region heads into Day 2 of the massive music festival in Chicago.
For the most part, riders heading to the event Thursday in Grant Park heeded requests to avoid trains before 9:30 a.m., and Metra is hoping that pattern will repeat itself Friday morning.
"Give regular commuters a break -- there's no concert going on early in the morning," Metra spokeswoman Meg Thomas-Reile said.
Lollapalooza gates open at 11 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.
Despite the apparent cooperation Thursday, many trains were packed and some ended up expressing to downtown, skipping some scheduled suburban stops.
But Metra often remained the best bet as drive times skyrocketed, especially in the face of an evening Cubs game and a protest march demanding action against gun violence in Chicago that closed Lake Shore Drive before moving to the streets around Wrigley Field.
The Cubs play the San Diego Padres at 1:20 p.m. Friday at Wrigley.
Coupled with Lollapalooza and the usual Friday getaway traffic, that is likely to mean more crowds on the roads and on Metra trains.
Metra is adding trains and cars to accommodate the thousands flocking to the music festival through Sunday.
"We are operating shadow trains (unscheduled extras) where possible to accommodate the crowds.
On Thursday, midday trains were packed on a number of lines. "Trains are crowded, but this is not unexpected as most of our lines operate hourly service at this time of day," Thomas-Reile said.
"The BNSF is operating scheduled extra inbound service throughout the event but is still experiencing crowding and some delays," Thomas-Reile added.
"Additionally, many are not regular riders of Metra and can take longer to board, creating additional delays."
The Chicago Transit Authority is also adding trains and expanded bus service to bring commuters from Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center to Grant Park.
Buses serving Metra riders include No. 126 Jackson from Union Station and No. J14 Jeffery Jump from Ogilvie.
Metra is concentrating on adding evening outbound service Friday to help get people out of the city.
"Unlike midday, everyone is going to try to leave at about the same time. Extra inbound service is scheduled throughout the weekend," Thomas-Reile said.