CTA, Metra keep rolling during storm

February 1, 2011 8:44:10 PM PST
The best way to get around in a giant storm is by public transportation. The CTA and Metra are taking extra precautions to keep the trains and buses rolling.

Metra has an 'early quit' service in place for Tuesday, February 1, 2011. Officials said it could interfere with other regular trains.

The most updated info is posted on the two transit agency's respective websites, metrarail.com and transitchicago.com.

From a mechanical standpoint, the buses and trains of Metra are up and running without any breakdown and nothing of consequence. There were so many people at Union Station that Metra decided to go with that they call a "load and go." The trains are there, people are there, head them home before the worst of the storm arrives.

Running a railroad in a blizzard -- as successfully as that can be done -- is dependent on making sure trains don't get stuck in the yards overnight. That means keeping the locomotives fired up and the switches from freezing.

"So we have track crews on duty now, probably stay on duty for the next 48 hours and will be stationed to make sure trains get out of the yards," said Bill Tupper, Metra deputy director.

Metra has all of its equipment in use, so it's not adding trains, but it did juggle schedules a bit Tuesday afternoon, adding more early departures for those who want to get home before the lion arrives.

And, a lot of people decided to pursue that option, Metra rider Kat Surdyka among them.

"I didn't want to chance it taking the car today and setting stuck, so now I'm coming back," said Sudyka.

At the CTA's operations center, they have a big picture view of how the system is performing. Throughout the storm the CTA will run eight-car trains to handle passenger load and help keep the tracks clear.

"We have 210 sleet devices on some cars that spray deicer on the third rail," said CTA President Rich Rodriguez. "So as long as I can keep 'em running every 15 minutes, I should be able to keep up with the snow burden."

Typically at the end of rush hour, the CTA downsizes its trains to four or six-car lengths, but Tuesday and Wednesday the transit agency will keep them running with eight cars throughout the night to accommodate passengers and help keep the tracks clear.

"I believe it's gonna be like Boston, people getting stuck on the train. That's why I'm leaving early," said CTA rider Deborah Warren.

"I know everyone's been preparing for this for two days now, so I'm not foreseeing much of a problem," said CTA rider Ken Sapyta.

It so happens on this day that Metra, after a nationwide search, hired its new executive director, Alexander Clifford, a top transit official from warm Los Angeles.

Technically, Clifford takes over next week.

Would he like to start now? "I think we are, yes," Clifford said.

It is an excellent opportunity for the new boss to see how a system performs when it's under great demand and considerable stress.

In a press release Tuesday, Amtrak said it planned to keep its regular schedule during the blizzard.