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 MACTRAXX
 
Everyone: This situation with the former C&NW Commuter routes reminds me of Conrail and their contract
operations of northeastern commuter trains back in 1982.

In this case UP wants out of their contract to operate commuter trains for Metra. The best case is for Metra
to directly take over operations of these three routes beginning in March 2020.

With no unseen circumstances this can be a smooth and seamless changeover from UP operation to Metra.
The Conrail exit had the problems of major changes to union contracts that led to strikes against commuter
authorities in 1983 - hopefully this will not become a problem with a UP to Metra transition.

MACTRAXX
  by ExCon90
 
Where are the UP dispatchers located nowadays? I seem to remember that after C&NW was merged with UP the dispatching was transferred to Omaha and--surprise--the C&NW dispatchers declined to move. The result was that other dispatchers in Omaha who were unaccustomed to passenger, let alone commuter dispatching, were assigned the jobs, with predictable results. Did they ever move the dispatching back to Chicago?
  by qboy
 
All Dispatchers for Geneva, Harvard, and Kenosha Subs are based out of Omaha. Earlier this year the Chicago Terminal Disp Desk was moved there as well to Omaha after being at Proviso along with the Villa Grove Disp. Some old C&NW guys didn't move but some did move. Pretty much all of the C&NW dispatchers for the Chicago territory have all retired now. Things as far as I know will continue as normal for now.
  by doepack
 
qboy wrote: Mon Dec 23, 2019 7:17 pm All Dispatchers for Geneva, Harvard, and Kenosha Subs are based out of Omaha. Earlier this year the Chicago Terminal Disp Desk was moved there as well to Omaha after being at Proviso along with the Villa Grove Disp. Some old C&NW guys didn't move but some did move. Pretty much all of the C&NW dispatchers for the Chicago territory have all retired now. Things as far as I know will continue as normal for now.
So is Lake St. tower and CY tower the only remaining locations where UP does local Chicago area dispatching?

Also, there's an old tower above the Kedzie station on UP/W. I've been told that's where CNW had their Chicago terminal dispatching operations before UP moved it to Proviso. Just curious if this is true or not...
  by eolesen
 
MACTRAXX wrote: Mon Dec 23, 2019 6:58 am In this case UP wants out of their contract to operate commuter trains for Metra. The best case is for Metra
to directly take over operations of these three routes beginning in March 2020.

With no unseen circumstances this can be a smooth and seamless changeover from UP operation to Metra.
The Conrail exit had the problems of major changes to union contracts that led to strikes against commuter
authorities in 1983 - hopefully this will not become a problem with a UP to Metra transition.
It's not going to be smooth or seamless.

UP wants to move UP-W trains on their schedule, and it seems Metra wants to continue to enforce embargo windows. With a third main soon to be all the way thru suburban territory, there's no reason UP should be held hostage to a commuter schedule.

I suspect that Metra is also trying to low-ball either the trackage-right rate (assuming UP keeps ownership of the ROW) or a purchase price on the ROW. It shouldn't be given away for less than going market rate for land in the Chicago area, and I'm pretty certain Metra didn't foot the bill for PTC.
  by qboy
 
doepack wrote: Tue Dec 24, 2019 12:54 am
qboy wrote: Mon Dec 23, 2019 7:17 pm All Dispatchers for Geneva, Harvard, and Kenosha Subs are based out of Omaha. Earlier this year the Chicago Terminal Disp Desk was moved there as well to Omaha after being at Proviso along with the Villa Grove Disp. Some old C&NW guys didn't move but some did move. Pretty much all of the C&NW dispatchers for the Chicago territory have all retired now. Things as far as I know will continue as normal for now.
So is Lake St. tower and CY tower the only remaining locations where UP does local Chicago area dispatching?

Also, there's an old tower above the Kedzie station on UP/W. I've been told that's where CNW had their Chicago terminal dispatching operations before UP moved it to Proviso. Just curious if this is true or not...
Yes Lake St. and CY are only towers do any local dispatching. And CY is only during the day and evening now. Yes CTD used be in the Kedzie Tower long before my time.
  by MetraBNSF
 
From the tone of this recent Daily Herald excerpt it seems this will not be a smooth transition.

https://www.dailyherald.com/amp-article ... 191239986/

One certainty for 2020 is that Union Pacific Railroad wants out of operating passenger trains for Metra. An agreement for the freight railroad to run Metra's three UP lines expires Feb. 29.

"I suspect it will end with a deal allowing Metra to directly operate the trains while saving a few bucks in the process," said Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development. "There is a lot of opportunity here for Metra, but the timeline seems really ambitious. Trying to forge an agreement in only a few months is no doubt causing some stress."
  by MACTRAXX
 
Everyone:

From the recent Herald article that M/BNSF posted that is just one opinion about the changes looming in March with the three UP/Metra rail routes. If all else fails and there
is a shutdown of these routes what are the remaining options for displaced riders?

BNSF Aurora Line: The busiest Metra route could become even busier with a closure
of the UP West Line. Would there be any way to accommodate any added ridership
on this route as example knowing how busy the south end of Union Station already
is? Can the busy stations on the west end handle any extra ridership influx?

The two Milwaukee District routes along with the North Central Service will become
the logical alternatives to the UP Northwest and North Lines - can added service be
operated using equipment from the closed UP routes? Are there available train crews
to address any added new runs? Union Station as a whole will become even busier
with the addition of displaced UP riders - can Union handle these added commuters?

The CTA lines that run parallel to all three UP routes would see added demand from
riders especially to stations that do offer parking options. An increase in PACE Bus
service connecting with these lines may be part of these alternates especially with
outlying parking facilities at capacity. Could PACE offer any added "feeder" buses to
stations on other rail routes to alleviate any anticipated parking problems? Can the
CTA run more trains to service this added demand alongside their own ridership?

If the two parties (UP and Metra) can work out their differences there would be NO
need for any possible shutdown or service changes elsewhere for commuters.
In this situation it pays to know what the necessary alternatives are...MACTRAXX
  by ExCon90
 
The net result would be that everything now using Ogilvie would have to be accommodated at CUS, and I would say that's flatly impossible. They'll figure something out--because they'll have to.
  by Tadman
 
These things don’t come out of nowhere. If this dispute has reached lawsuit stage, there have been prior attempts to settle it, and its amazing how quiet the parties are. UP has been content to operate the POS a for 30 years and now doesn’t want it? I suspect Metra or RTA made a big demand or ultimatum and UP has no inclination to play ball. Why else would they give up a revenue stream that’s been acceptable for decades in the face of a rails downturn? Why else would they give up such a degree of control over their property?

There’s a lot more to this story.
  by Engineer Spike
 
I have a hunch of what might really be at stake. UP, which is now in full blown PSR wants to show amazing profits. Apparently they still own all the tracks right to the bunters in Chicago. Does UP even have any customers on the passenger line north? Probably few. They likely don’t have much past Proviso, except for access to Global 1, and possibly a connection with the BRC, and down to connect with the old C&EI line. My point is that they pay taxes on all that property. If Metra got it, it would be exempt.

Back in the 1970s, Boston and Maine was bankrupt. They had lines which were mostly devoted to commuter service. The plant far exceeded what was required for freight operations. As a result, B&M sold all those lines to the MBTA. They retained freight rights to infinity. The sale saved B&M millions on taxes and maintenance. Maybe UP is hoping for the same result.
  by CHTT1
 
I agree. The boys on Wall Street are pressuring UP to squeeze every cent out of operations. They probably said, "Who are always these people working in passenger service in Chicago?" "Why are you maintaining tracks that used just by passenger trains." "Cut, cut, cut." Even the mightiest railroad is being forced to become some bare-boned operations, until everything is cut and the Wall Street boys take their money elsewhere.
  by justalurker66
 
So the $100 million per year doesn't cover expenses or does UP not want to see the pass through on their books?

If UP stops operating the passenger service the payment from Metra will get smaller.
If UP sells the tracks to Metra the payment should end (and they should pay for trackage rights for their freight trains).

The tax situation is logical. If they are paying taxes and can get that off of their books I can see where that would make a difference. But Metra is paying for their use of the line. The only way UP would save money is if they are operating at a loss. Otherwise it is an exercise in "how to save $10 by losing $100" and ending up $90 down.
  by MetraBNSF
 
justalurker66 wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 11:49 am If UP sells the tracks to Metra the payment should end (and they should pay for trackage rights for their freight trains).
If UP were to sell any trackage to Metra it’d most likely be the north and northwest lines. No way UP gives up the west line in any way. Although M19A and California Ave are along there. Aside from a small yard south of Clybourn does UP have any other freight facilities along the north and northwest?
  by Tadman
 
None on the north line that I'm aware of. There is one steel plant in Ravenswood but that's all truck service these days. Chicago did a pretty good job of driving industry out of the north side in the 1980's and 1990's, and over the last ten years the residential component is back-filling that empty space to the point where the stragglers are becoming unwelcome. Finkl Steel held out for a long time to the point where Lincoln Park was surrounding them and was no longer a blue collar area, and they felt pressure to leave where they were once welcome as the last good blue collar jobs around. Same with Tempel in Ravenswood. They are the coil processing shop I mention above. They clearly had service at one time, but who knows what happened first? Not enough local service or cheap trucks? Today there is one spur left in the area but I get the feeling the locals would s*** a brick if freight trains started rolling through the neighborhood at ground level again.

I used to live near both spots and appreciated the dichotomy of the areas. Especially Ravenswood, what a great area with so much going on.