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 BandA
What clerical & legal work is involved? Ironic to be doing legal work for and suing at the same time.
  by eolesen
Lots of opportunities for clerical work... UP is still selling tickets via ticket agents in a dozen or two stations, and that requires cash handling, ticket accounting, etc... I'm sure there's going to be paperwork related to locomotive and car maintenance records, fuel dispensing, etc.

No idea what the legal work is.
  by Pensyfan19
Metra is now asking for an injunction from the STB against Union Pacific to maintain commuter service.

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... er-service
CHICAGO — Metra has asked the Surface Transportation Board to issue an injunction to prevent Union Pacific from acting on plans that the commuter railroad says would “degrade or halt service” on the three Metra lines operated by UP.

In a press release, Metra also says it has asked the STB to rule whether UP has a legal obligation to provide such service. Union Pacific believes it does not, while Metra “strongly disagrees,” according to the release.

“Metra and Union Pacific have had a longstanding, cooperative working relationship and our intention is to continue to maintain this relationship going forward,” Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said in the release. “These filings are an effort by Metra to maintain the status quo on the UP North, Northwest and West lines while at the same time attempting to resolve critical points of disagreement between us.”

Metra says a key point of contention is Union Pacific’s “common carrier obligation,” which reflects the regulation of railroads as public utilities which must provide freight and passenger service at a reasonable price. UP believes that obligation no longer applies to its commuter operations, while Metra says no public agency has released UP or predecessor Chicago & North Western from those obligations. UP inherited the commuter operations when it acquired the C&NW in 1995.

In a response, Union Pacific acknowledged that it and Metra “have differing interpretations of the common carrier duty.” It said the lawsuit it filed in December 2019 [see “UP sues Metra over commuter operations,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 21, 2019] was “to determine a common understanding of the law because we believed the court was in the best position to resolve the parties' disagreement. … We disagree with Metra's effort to move the dispute to the Surface Transportation Board now.”
  by Pensyfan19
Forgot to mention from that article that UP stated that their decision would not halt or degrade passenger service on the line, and would still maintain the ROW, similar to Metra''s service on the Milwaukee lines.
UP also said it has “been clear with Metra that service on these lines will not be degraded or halted,” although earlier this month it informed Metra would stop providing some support services as of the end of August and would seek to stop operating commuter trains within 90 days if it won the lawsuit, which it said could reach a decision later this year [see “UP says it will end some support to Metra operations …,” News Wire Digest, July 9, 2020].

The freight railroad says it seeks an “mututally beneficial service agreement” under which Metra would operate the service “and take on the Union Pacific employees who currently perform these duties,” while UP would continue to own and maintain the right-of-way and dispatch the route. It notes that this would bring the Metra service into alignment with other commuter rail operators on its system. UP also says this would be similar to services operated on the Milwaukee North line, which is Metra-owned but shared with and dispatched by Canadian Pacific, and the SouthWest Service, which Metra leases from Norfolk Southern, which continues to dispatch the route.
  by chirailfan
Would not be surprised if ticket agents at the outlying stations are phased out completely. Not just on UP but all lines.

Think about this. When this pandemic began, the Illinois Tollway discontinued all manual toll collection. All toll collection is currently handled electronically either through I-Pass or paying online within 7 days.
  by doepack
As I see it, "Unified Plan 2020" (UP's version of PSR) means reduced traffic, longer trains, layoffs/furloughs, and yard consolidations and/or closures. Not just for UP, but for all other roads to varying degrees that have adopted it. Has had quite a positive effect on their operating ratio (which was around 60 last I checked, stockholders are pleased I'm sure), and I'm wondering how much influence this is having on their desire to focus solely on being a freight railroad at the expense of ridding themselves of their common carrier obligations as a passenger railroad. The timing is suspect to me, and seems more than coincidental, especially after 25 years of relative labor peace.

Several posts up in this thread, it was noted that per the current POS agreement, Metra pays UP about $100 million annually to operate the service. Does that sufficiently cover UP's costs? If not, how much is the shortfall? And what would UP's asking price be for Metra to buy the Harvard and Kenosha subs?

Don't mind me, just thinking aloud...
  by Pensyfan19
Two days in a row we have an article regarding this on Trains.com

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... sagreement
CHICAGO — The depth of disagreement between Metra and Union Pacific over commuter rail service on three Chicago-area UP lines is visible in Metra filings with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board seeking to ensure UP continues to provide service on those lines.

In two filings on Tuesday, Metra asks that the STB to rule that Union Pacific has a common-carrier obligation to provide commuter rail service on the three lines it current operates for Metra under a purchase of service agreement, and that the STB has the jurisdiction to enforce that obligation. The commuter agency also requests a preliminary injunction to prevent UP from ending commuter rail service while the STB considers Metra’s request for that ruling. Metra says an injunction is needed “to prevent the irreparable harm to the Chicago commuting public that UP’s threatened action will cause.”

Metra revealed in a Tuesday press release that it had asked the STB to become involved [see “Metra asks STB for injunction against Union Pacific to maintain commuter service,” Trains News Wire, July 21, 2020]. Union Pacific disagreed with the STB’s involvement, saying the court case it filed against Metra last December would determine the common-carrier dispute [see “UP sues Metra over commuter operations,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 21, 2019]

Union Pacific has responded today to the Surface Transportation Board by filing a 142-page document asking the STB to delay its proceedings at least until a federal court in Illinois rules on Metra's request to dismiss the Union Pacific case.
  by Pensyfan19
UP says they will lose millions if they continue to operate passenger trains, but thankfully they are proposing to transfer the existing UP services to Metra rather than terminating service on the routes.

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... -for-metra
Union Pacific claims it will suffer “millions of dollars in losses and incur millions in additional risk” if forced to continue to operate commuter rail service for Metra, according to the previously sealed lawsuit it filed against the commuter rail agency last December.

The lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division was included with the railroad’s response to Metra’s request for the Surface Transportation Board to intervene in the dispute between the two parties. [see “Metra asks STB for injunction against Union Pacific …,” Trains News Wire, July 21, 2020, and “STB filings deail Metra, UP disagreement,” Trains News Wire, July 22, 2020]. Union Pacific is asking the STB to delay consideration of the case at least until U.S. Judge Jorge L. Alonso rules on Metra’s pending motion to dismiss the UP’s lawsuit.

The railroad also says in its STB filing that Metra “seeks to short-circuit its own motion to dismiss” by going to the STB, and that “Metra’s dilatory and forum shopping tactics are unfair to the Union Pacific and an affront to the District Court’s jurisdiction.” UP also says the injunction Metra seeks is available from the court, and that the STB has no jurisdiction to require action under the terms of the purchase of service agreement that covers Metra operations on the freight railroad.


Union Pacific seeks to end the decades-long practice of operating trains for Metra, and wants an agreement transferring those operations — as well as about 850 Union Pacific employees who are involved with them — to Metra. Both sides say they are far apart in reaching an agreement, leading to Union Pacific’s declaration in a June 30 letter that it would stop providing some support services for Metra operations later this year and that it would seek to end operation of Metra’s trains within 90 days of a ruling on the court case.
  by Pensyfan19
Here's another update regarding the topic. Two articles in the same day for this one and it's starting to look like Metra is on the winning side in this case.

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... up-dispute
STB's Oberman won't participate in Metra-UP proceedings
Surface Transportation Board Vice Chairman Martin Oberman, a former Metra board chairman, announced he will recuse himself from the STB’s proceedings regarding Metra’s request for a preliminary injunction and ruling in its ongoing dispute with Union Pacific [See “Metra asks STB for injunction against Union Pacific to maintain commuter service,” Trains News Wire, July 21, 2020]. With the STB board operating with just three members, this raises the possibility of a deadlock in decision-making

Metra will oppose UP's motion to delay STB action
Metra’s attorney filed a short letter with the Surface Transportation Board informing the agency it would “reply promptly” to Union Pacific’s request that the STB hold in abeyance its proceedings on the Metra-UP dispute [see “UP says it will lose millions operating trains for Metra,” Trains News Wire, July 22, 2020]. The letter from attorney Charles A. Spitulnik said the commuter railroad will ask the STB to deny UP’s motion “in light of the emergency circumstances Metra has outlined” in its filings earlier this week. Noting that a letter accompanying UP’s request said the freight railroad would not respond to Metra’s earlier filings unless the STB denies its motion, the letter included a pointed barb that Metra’s plan to respond is “unlike UP, which believes it can adhere to its own set of rules regarding replies to matters before the Board.”
  by John_Perkowski
I’m a shareholder in UP. There is NWIH I want to re-create the passenger traffic department. That is what METRA wants.

Either METRA provides the high legal cover of a common carrier, and UP provides T&E crews and maintenance under contract, or UP should rightly end service.
  by eolesen
Metra has the upper hand? Doesn't appear that way or they wouldn't be asking the STB would step in and meddle with the outcome of an ongoing court case.

The issue of common carrier status really isn't for the STB to decide. Asking them to step in before a ruling seems to run seriously afoul of separation of powers. STB is part of the administrative branch, courts are the judiciary (for those who never had high school civics...).
  by justalurker66
The STB routinely makes decisions on common carrier status. It is part of their responsibility as the regulator.