Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

Road Week Ahead: May 5 – May 9

Here’s what’s on tap for Lake County commuters this week: Ongoing construction and chilly rainy days, but we’re one week closer to the completion of the Tri-State Rebuild and Widen project!

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Filed under: Commuting, , ,

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, , , , ,

The Little-Known WiFi Engine that Could

The Little WiFi Engine that Could Did you know that Illinois enacted legislation to develop a plan to provide wireless internet access on passenger trains? The bill was passed in June 2007. A plan was to be finalized by December 31, 2007, but I can’t find any progress reports on this initiative. With the transit budget issues rightly taking legislative focus towards the end of 2007, my guess is that the WiFi plan deadline wasn’t met.

WiFi access on the trains would increase personal productivity of a Metra commute, as well as create additional revenue for the state. I currently use my Metra time to sleep or zone out (which also has its purpose) but I’d love to have WiFi on board so that I could check email or work online. Factor in a reasonable pricing structure, and you’ve got a winning benefit. Amtrak’s Hiawatha Line commuters would benefit from the convenience of WiFi during their hour-and-a half trek between Milwaukee and Union Station, as would Amtrak passengers throughout the rest of Illinois.

Boston’s already piloting WiFi on trains. When’s our turn?

Filed under: Mass Transit, , ,

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