Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

Why don’t you take the train?

Hunting for parking at a Metra rail station and boarding the ever-more-crowded trains can make one feel that everyone is taking Metra these days.

But a look at the vehicle-clogged roads seems to tell otherwise. Indeed, several of my associates have increased their rail ridership recently, but others have not.

Metra’s commercials encourage “If Metra’s right for you,” perhaps you should consider the train for your next commute. Certainly many commuters take Metra up on their offer, with many more hopping aboard as gas prices have climbed. Metra even added capacity on key lines to keep up with demand.

So, do you take the train or bus? And if not, why not?

I take Metra whenever I can. For me, riding the train is less stressful than driving. The train is reliable, and I’m able to work during my commute. With gas at $3.80 a gallon even in the suburbs, Metra becomes a more attractive commuting option every day.

But sometimes, I drive to work instead of taking the train. This can continue for days at a time. If I’m not on the train, it could be for one of the following reasons/excuses:

  • I elected to grab another twenty winks, thereby delaying my exit and I thus missed the train.
  • I was unable to find parking at the station (see Excuse #1).
  • I had to work later than the last shuttle bus would’ve been able to get me to the station, and I didn’t want to pay for a taxi or beg someone for a ride.
  • I have errands to run after work, including car repair or maintenance appointments.

Many of my motoring associates would love to take Metra to work, but matters of convenience or lack thereof stand in the way. According to USA Today, fewer than 20% of U.S. households have easy access to mass transit.

A few reasons cited by those who are not on board:

  • Train schedule does not work with their work schedule, due to arrival/departure times or train frequency.
  • Total commute time would be longer than with driving (cited for those who do not live or work near Metra stations).
  • Can’t get from home to train due to distance and lack of a vehicle.
  • Can’t get from the train station to the workplace, again due to distance and lack of connecting transportation.
  • Insufficient time to pick up children from daycare without incurring tardiness fees.
  • The person prefers the autonomy of driving their own car.
  • Claustrophobia
  • Train is too crowded

Any others? Has your use of mass transit changed due to gas prices, environmental concerns, a broken-down car or any other reason?

Also see:

Why people in Portland, ME didn’t take the bus.

Why people on the City-Data forums don’t take mass transit.

On Choosing Between Mass Transit and Car.

You may have heard: Half of Chicago area employees say they would use mass transit if their employers subsidize it, as is suggested by the Commuter Act.

Pace transit sees highest usage in 50 years [PDF] ( feature article in the agency’s Rider Report newsletter)

Baltimore residents get on board.

Filed under: Mass Transit, ,

Commuter News Roundup

Woman pays off 1976 parking ticket. The fine, which was $1 when the ticket was issued, increased to $5 after 72 hours, but didn’t compound itself after that. Hmm, I wonder what the current fine would be for each dollar in unpaid parking fines incurred in Chicago in 1976?

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Mass Transit, , , , ,

Google Transit rolls into Chicago

Google Transit, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, has finally rolled into Chicago with a bit of fanfare. For now, only CTA schedules are included. Hopefully Metra’s and Pace’s schedules will be added soon.

A comprehensive trip planner that includes suburban buses and rail is available on  RTA’s web site. CTA Tattler also hosts a review of the expanded CTA Bus Tracker.

More on this story: 20 Million Minutes, Metafilter, Chicago Tribune

Filed under: Mass Transit,

Track that route!

Drivers do it, thanks to traffic reports delivered by radio, text message, GPS device and desktop. Airlines do it for those anticipating a passenger. Tracking your transit and estimating arrival time is part of getting around.

Resources are growing to allow mass transit users to do the same.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Mass Transit, , , , , , ,

An Amtrak accident story

It all started as a regular Friday night Metra ride home on the Milwaukee District-North line, until the engineer came on the intercom and announced that an Amtrak train had just struck a pedestrian at the Lake Forest station ahead. Our travel would thus be halted until further notice.

It was 5:20 PM.

I gasped. This was my first experience with a train accident. My memory flashed back to the northbound Amtrak train that had dashed past my station ten minutes earlier. It had to be the one involved.

Out came a multitude of cell phones as passengers phoned contacts, advising them of events. As the wait wore on, a handful of passengers began discussing the situation. One passenger passed judgment on the pedestrian, loudly voicing blame mixed with irritation at the delay. Another passenger responded, describing the necessity of a thorough investigation. Fortunately, other passengers did not join in the fray, perhaps out of weariness or out of respect for the tragedy they kept their opinions to themselves.

Over the ensuing hour and a half, updates were occasionally broadcast over the intercom. The announcer confirmed the fatality, of which we had already suspected. Finally around 6 PM our train was cleared to continue northward.

The mood in the car during our slow approach to and departure from the Lake Forest station was somber, the effect jarring. The blame-slinger was silent.

The victim was a woman from Round Lake. It was not until I read the News-Sun’s article about the accident that I learned of two recent accidents at the Round Lake Metra station. My condolences go out to the families of these victims.

According to the Illinois Commerce Commission’s website, there were 26 collisions between trains and motorists/pedestrians in Lake County between 2002 and 2007. Lake County has 1.6% of the state’s crossings, but accounted for 2.6% of the accidents.

The moral of the story is that safety around trains cannot be emphasized enough. There have been far too many train accidents as of late. We need for you to be safe.

Filed under: Mass Transit, , , , ,

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