Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by Gilbert B Norman
 
justalurker66 wrote: Fri Aug 12, 2022 6:49 pm
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Fri Aug 12, 2022 8:15 amReason is simple; at least here in "the land of the Burlingtons", the business is gone and it's never coming back.
BNSF service did drop more than the other lines (2019 vs 2021) but they still carried more passengers than any other district. The Heritage Corridor and South West Service were the hardest hit. Gone forever? I am not that pessimistic.
Mr. Lurker, I must wonder if the UP/C&NW North Line has had as much of a ridership decline as has BNSF?

The reason I wonder is clearly that line serves the most affluent Chicagoland region (household income, real estate assessments, kids that go to Ivy League schools from the likes of New Trier, whatever), while the BNSF, by those measurements, I think comes in second. If the "high powered" lawyers and C-Suiters that reside along both "have to go in", they will just get "behind the wheel".

While I'm surprised you note, and of course deferring to your immense knowledge of METRA affairs, that the GM&O and Wabash got hit the worst. On one hand, I would think "the front line" resides along both, but on the other, even in the best of pre-COVID times, those lines barely had more than rush hour service.

By that same token, how badly do you find the SOO to Antioch affected?

But to close back on topic, whatever METRA can do to curtail this order for new equipment, I think would be in their best interest. Soon, someone will "wake 'em up" to realize that the existing pre-COVID levels of service are simply not sustainable and they will be left with a supply of surplus engines and cars that can be cannibalized so the survivors can "live to fight another day".
  by justalurker66
 
Well Mr Quixote, you have a right to tilt at that windmill but I don't believe Metra is reading this site for advice from you or me.

Comparing ridership between 2019 and 2021 (2022 is not over yet so it is not reported).

All of Metra service dropped 81%. North Central Service led the drop by losing 91% of their passengers followed closely by Heritage Corridor (89%), South West Service (87%) and less closely by BNSF (84%), Milwaukee North (83%) and Milwaukee West (82%). UP West and UP Northwest hit the average at 81%. Losing less than the overall average were the Rock Island and UP North lines (77% each) and losing the least percentage of passengers was Metra Electric (75%).

The change in ridership leaves BNSF in the #1 position (ridership compared to other districts). UP NW remains in #2 and UP N remains in #3. By losing less passengers than UP-W, MED moved from 5th to 6th and RI moved from 6th to 5th (UP-W dropped from 4th to 6th). The bottom three districts remained in the same order (SWS, NCS, HC).

There has been some recovery this year (2022) ... when those numbers are released we will have a better idea of how many passengers will be riding in the future. Metra has only ordered the first 200 of the "up to" 500 car order so if they need to scale back they can. But I'm not ready to rubber stamp your "not coming back" opinion without better facts than the observed number of cars parked in one station parking lot. It is likely that the cars you used to see there were overflowing from neighboring stations. People are still riding, just parking elsewhere.
  by RandallW
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Sat Aug 13, 2022 7:55 am But to close back on topic, whatever METRA can do to curtail this order for new equipment, I think would be in their best interest. Soon, someone will "wake 'em up" to realize that the existing pre-COVID levels of service are simply not sustainable and they will be left with a supply of surplus engines and cars that can be cannibalized so the survivors can "live to fight another day".
Why is it better to maintain a fleet containing 60+ year old equipment (as noted in the press releases for this purchase) where not every car can carry bicycles, wheelchairs, or provides restrooms than to replace that part of that fleet and retire the 1960s vintage cars without toilets or accessibility combinations (and possibly accelerate the removal of older equipment to get to a smaller fleet if that is all that needed)?
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Hey Mr. Lurker, remember I ride METRA, albeit just "from time to time".

I use it when going to the Chicago Symphony by myself (accompanied; drive and pay as much as $50 for parking) and I also use it to go in for Lunchtime meet ups.

But as I noted earlier in the discussion, the "five day at the office" for knowledge workers I believe is over and done and at such time COVID is declared "over" (as distinct from the present "we're learning to live with it"), the most significant change will be that it's not necessary for knowledge workers to gather together each working day to be productive members of the workforce.
  by eolesen
 
RandallW wrote:
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Sat Aug 13, 2022 7:55 am whatever METRA can do to curtail this order for new equipment, I think would be in their best interest.
Why is it better to maintain a fleet containing 60+ year old equipment (as noted in the press releases for this purchase) where not every car can carry bicycles, wheelchairs, or provides restrooms than to replace that part of that fleet and retire the 1960s vintage cars without toilets or accessibility combinations (and possibly accelerate the removal of older equipment to get to a smaller fleet if that is all that needed)?
Randall's right. Between the Budd and Pullman cars, there are 320 antiques in need of recycling.... that's half the trailer car fleet.

The Alstom order is for 200 firm deliveries and 300 options. To Prof. Norman's hypothesis, I do expect to see some fiscal reality setting in and doubt they exercise all the options. But the firm orders are booked and not going away.

Replacing on a 2:3 ratio with the firm 200 isn't a bad start, but exercising another 100 options and replacing at a 1:1 ratio wouldn't be entirely irresponsible.

If traffic stays down, there are 180 Amerail cars that are already 30 years old which could be stored as a surge fleet, or sold off while they still offer some degree of marketability to other agencies.

Sent from my SM-G981U using Tapatalk
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Possibly others who have been around these parts for a while, such as myself who has been a legal IL resident since June '70, (always paid out of state to U of IL; and I enlisted in the Air Force from CT) have heard the term "dinks" or "scoots" with regards to suburban trains. That is because on the then Q, the off peak consist was one engine, a single level power car, and one bi-level. The same was the case over on "my MILW". C&NW always had longer consists, and I know not of the others.

So, who knows if signals and gates can still accept three car consists but based upon my observations of the early AM trains, that's all they need to handle whoever still shows up to ride.

There will always be "surges" such as that recently completed Grant Park "concert", the Marathon, this NASCAR "smack 'em up" set for next year, and as well as additional limited stop ("Express") for the "front line" and the knowledge workers for whom "it's the day to go in", so of course there will be need for additional cars over the then three "unit" (14 axle) "scoot" consists, which today would be three bi-levels and one F-40 (16 axles).
  by justalurker66
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Sat Aug 13, 2022 7:13 pmHey Mr. Lurker, remember I ride METRA, albeit just "from time to time".
Yes. But despite your experience you should not discount the facts presented simply because they do not support your preconceived opinion. You asked about the performance of the lines. Information provided. Those with better information about 2022 ridership will make the decisions.

BTW: I agree with the posts detailing how the initial order will replace existing aging rail cars. I do not agree with the hypothesis that work at home will keep the trains empty. I need some facts to convince me.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Lurker, thank you for presenting "hard" ridership numbers for the System. I'm not about to dispute any of such as following METRA affairs appear far higher up on your "food chain" than it ever has been on mine (well, since '81 when I pulled the pin on the workday commute).

But I still think that any mass transit system that loses 81% of its ridership (happily concede that 2022 ridership could represent somewhat of a "bounce back") means that there need be a "rethink" regarding the frequencies of service and to what extent aging equipment should be replaced.

Finally, so far as the "root cause" for this very significant socio-economic upset - COVID, I think the most significant change is the realization by both employers and workers that a knowledge worker need not come to the office in order to be productive. There are enough ways nowadays such as measurement of computer strokes for the boss to know who is pulling their weight rather than the traditional "boss in back workers in front so the boss can see you, but you can't see him".
  by eolesen
 
justalurker66 wrote: Sun Aug 14, 2022 11:40 pm Those with better information about 2022 ridership will make the decisions.

BTW: I agree with the posts detailing how the initial order will replace existing aging rail cars. I do not agree with the hypothesis that work at home will keep the trains empty. I need some facts to convince me.
Step back from comparing just 2019 to 2022...

Traffic had been dropping steadily from 2015 to 2019 even before COVID. Probably the leading edge of WFH policies, and maybe to some degree reflecting companies leaving Illinois over tax policies? Who knows, but it's a pretty clear trend:
capture_400066.jpg
2019 traffic was around 91% of 2015 traffic.

If you look at 2022 YTD vs. 2021, sure traffic is coming back. It's roughly double 2021, which sounds great, right?...

Not even close to great. 2022 YTD is running 30% of 2019.
capture_400064.jpg
capture_400065.jpg
There's been a seismic shift, folks. The data isn't trying to make a political statement... the drops are there. In plain sight.

We can treat this like how the current recession is being treated by some and say "we don't have enough conclusive data" because some don't want to believe it's actually happening...
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  by justalurker66
 
30% of 2019 is good. I don't expect an instant bounce back to 90% of 2019 (or wherever the level would be if COVID had not interrupted the natural progression).

If 100% of 2019 is the goal and one must get there in 2023 then one has set an impossible bar. Setting bars like that makes in obvious that one wants the service to fail. 20% in 21, 30% in 22, 40% in 23? Is that good enough or should we just park the trains and shut it all down?
  by eolesen
 
No, don't park the trains and shut it all down. Just shut part of it down, specifically the NCS and either the HC or SWS. Possibly all three.

Right now, they're only operating weekday rush-hour directional service (inbound to Chicago in the mornings, outbound from Chicago in the afternoons). No weekend service, no holidays.

Keeping those three routes is tying up 15 trainsets with no opportunity to use those crews to do anything more than the two trips a day. That's a huge waste of shrinking resources.

Keep the critical mass. Shut the three losers down and If not already an option, bustitute to the MD-N, UP-NW, RI, and BNSF....

You can always resume services if ridership ever comes back. Right now, it's pouring good money after bad.
  by TurningOfTheWheel
 
The willingness of "railfans" to kill any and all possible passenger rail service fascinates me.

Rather than killing three lines (which currently have terrible, terrible service patterns, truly shockingly bad) why not try a "radical" experiment and provide frequent, all-day, Overground-style service? As you say, the ridership is never coming back under the current service model. The 9 to 5 commuter market just isn't there in the WFH world. But people are still going into the city (and between suburbs) for many other reasons, and Metra would be wise to start catering to some of these uses. By providing half-hour off-peak service with shorter consists and even (*gasp*) electrification in some spots, Metra can provide a relevant, competitive service for a market that's been there all along but they have until now had no real interest in serving. You know as well as I do that if they cancel services, the ridership won't be there. The issue with Metra's current service model is that it doesn't serve anybody outside of traditional suburb-to-downtown commuters. If it serves this market even less without opening themselves to any other options, there is no reason for ridership to do anything but plummet even below current levels.
  by scratchyX1
 
TurningOfTheWheel wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 10:36 pm The willingness of "railfans" to kill any and all possible passenger rail service fascinates me.

Rather than killing three lines (which currently have terrible, terrible service patterns, truly shockingly bad) why not try a "radical" experiment and provide frequent, all-day, Overground-style service? As you say, the ridership is never coming back under the current service model. The 9 to 5 commuter market just isn't there in the WFH world. But people are still going into the city (and between suburbs) for many other reasons, and Metra would be wise to start catering to some of these uses. By providing half-hour off-peak service with shorter consists and even (*gasp*) electrification in some spots, Metra can provide a relevant, competitive service for a market that's been there all along but they have until now had no real interest in serving. You know as well as I do that if they cancel services, the ridership won't be there. The issue with Metra's current service model is that it doesn't serve anybody outside of traditional suburb-to-downtown commuters. If it serves this market even less without opening themselves to any other options, there is no reason for ridership to do anything but plummet even below current levels.
Does metra have a limited number of slots paid the the Class Is, for each line?
Or would they be able to increase service, with shorter consists? What would be optimum is Dmu/EMU/BMU with two crews, and automatic doors.
  by eolesen
 
TurningOfTheWheel wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 10:36 pm The willingness of "railfans" to kill any and all possible passenger rail service fascinates me.
The willingness of railfans to spend money irresponsibly infuriates me. It's my tax dollars going to support those empty Metra trains...
TurningOfTheWheel wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 10:36 pm The 9 to 5 commuter market just isn't there in the WFH world. But people are still going into the city (and between suburbs) for many other reasons, and Metra would be wise to start catering to some of these uses.
Yup. People are still going into the city. But they're not going there in the numbers to justify 600+ seats every half hour or hour. With increasing levels of violent crime that moves into the Loop, the more likely it is for people to drive directly to their destination or skip downtown entirely lest they be carjacked.
TurningOfTheWheel wrote: Mon Aug 15, 2022 10:36 pm The issue with Metra's current service model is that it doesn't serve anybody outside of traditional suburb-to-downtown commuters. If it serves this market even less without opening themselves to any other options, there is no reason for ridership to do anything but plummet even below current levels.
Well, RTA was formed to serve bedroom communities. Now those bedroom communities no longer "need" those jobs downtown because the work has either moved out to the suburbs, out of state entirely, or people are working more/completely from home.

The nature of work has changed dramatically in the last 22 years. COVID may have just accelerated the economic reality of what was seen as essential from 1920 to 2000 (arguably a tipping point for technology and the internet becoming a commercial norm) is no longer needed. The biggest impact of that is going to be felt in Chicago, New York, and Boston, and to a lesser degree in Philly & Washington.
  by TurningOfTheWheel
 
RTA may have been formed to serve bedroom communities and traditional commuting patterns, but it is socially, environmentally, and economically irresponsible to pull transit access from communities that have it. Give them a reason to use the infrastructure that's there by utilizing it differently. Shorter headways, smaller consists, perhaps new motive power. People who want (or even, gasp, need) to use transit already have to schedule their days around hour-plus headways (2+ hours on Sundays), and making that problem worse isn't going to make the trains you're paying for (and me, and every other person in the RTA service area) any more full.