Chicago’s Metra has been getting a lot of crap lately. I
admin admit, their website is lame (doesn’t work right on my iPhone either) and the best I can say for them is that GoogleMaps has picked them up so I can plan things better. They still use paper tickets, with cash or check only as payment, and it takes the fastest conductor I’ve ever seen about a minute to punch a ‘purchased on train’ ticket.
Not to mention the first time I took my bike on the train, in its bag (which now has a small hole… damn it), I got snarked at. The Wed-Fri conductor thinks its cool, though and chats with me. Today we were talking about the future of Metra. The train I take in used to be full. Really packed like sardines full. Each car can fit about 150 people, and we used to cram in 160 to 175. Now we’re lucky to hit 100.
The recession, I suppose, is the reason for the room, but with the possibility of the Olympics looming, it’s about time Chicago got their transportation gear in order.
Some ideas I’d like to see:
- A bike car during peak hours
- A free transfer to a train that goes right to O’Hare from Union/Ogalvie
- No more paper tickets!
- Taking credit cards
- A ticket vendor machine (the lines to get tickets can get really long)
- Handheld computers for the conductors (instead of those log books they use with pencil and paper)
I compare my riding on the Metra to the trains I took in Japan, which were infinitely better, cleaner, and automated. You could get paper tickets, or a plastic ‘Go Card’ that was usable on multiple lines, even though the lines were owned by different companies! And by sharing the costs, the made credit-card processing come with no extra fees to the riders.
I’m sure we can do this too.
For what it’s worth, the RTA has decided that maybe a universal fare system for the CTA, Pace (suburban busses) and Metra is a good idea. Ya think!?