New Metra CEO Drives to Work Because the Train’s Too Infrequent
The Metra board recently confirmed Don Orseno as the permanent executive director following his stint as interim chief after Alex Clifford resigned last year. After the confirmation, the Tribune reported that Orseno, a decades-long railroad and Metra employee who lives in Manhattan, a far southwest suburb, said that he has to drive to work because the “SouthWest Service Line schedule doesn’t get him to the office early enough, or home late enough.”
He’s right: Each weekday, three trains depart Manhattan for Chicago Union Station, arriving at 7:25 a.m., 8:17 a.m. and 3:48 p.m. The last train bound for Manhattan leaves Union Station at 5:40 p.m. The line doesn’t run at all on Sundays and six holidays.
Ridership figures for SouthWest Service aren’t known since Metra rarely conducts station-level boarding surveys and the only one for the Manhattan station was conducted in 2006 (the same year SouthWest Service was extended to Manhattan and Will County). A 2013 survey did show only seven percent of the 250 car parking spaces at the station in use. Numerous residents — but apparently not Orseno — drive to 179th Street station in Orland Park which has better, more typical service.
The low frequency on the line isn’t simply Metra catering to demand. Ridership itself is restrained by the lack of frequency.
Orseno’s speech at the board meeting focused on improving communication quality to passengers, which was abysmal during the Chiberia service disruptions. Soon, though, we need to hear from Orseno and other transit leaders and state legislators about how they plan to add service, given that the infrequency of transit is a drag on the regional economy.
Orseno’s comments come at a very interesting time. Tonight, state representatives Ron Sandack and Darlene Senger host a public hearing to discuss Metra’s extremely long delays, leaving passengers on cold platforms with nary a communiqué. Orseno will attend and Metra staff will make a presentation before a public Q&A.
It won’t be surprising if the meeting, to be held at Naperville City Hall, is canceled because of today’s inclement weather, but one Twitter user has this question queued up for Orseno already:
It would be nice to have a transit system in the City of Chicago or for that matter in some suburbs which was delightful to use. But it would not surprise me to learn that buses are the travel mode of last resort for the underclasses in Chicago not so much for the fact that you might have to sit next to someone with poor hygiene. Rather it is the threat of violence in the City of Chicago that makes even the thought of waiting on a corner for an approaching bus something that is daunting.
We have had thefts of iPhones from folks standing on elevated train platforms that have ended in serious injury. Why would anyone willingly ride on a system with that little protection afforded to them. Why indeed would anyone making the kind of money our politicians make (or their corporate counterparts) just for the sake of pleasing their critics?
I doubt seriously that department heads in City Hall ride bikes to photo-ops or speaking engagements. I know instead that there are details of well-paid police that see to their safety and transport or at the very least they have cars or SUVs for their departmental use if not in need of personal protection.
It might be something to expect from the mayor of a small suburban town where the pace of life is a good deal slower, but we are talking about Chicago. And again safety is of the utmost importance to everyone and so when the Police Commissioner travels to the various wards of the city he does so in a safe and sane manner. That probably does not include riding Mass Transit or for that matter a Bicycle.
I’ve had Chicago Urban Cyclists tell me that before they can take anyone seriously with respect to their being “real cyclists” they to share the daily death-defying act known as “bicycle commuting” as practiced on Chicago streets. But not even the heads of bicycle advocacy organizations always live in the city limits. And chances are the kind of Mass Transit they ride is more of the Metra type which is a vast cut above CTA in many ways.
Rather than focusing on the window-dressing aspects of jobs like the head of Metra and whether or not he rides to work on Mass Transit of any sort, let’s just focus on whether or not he gets the job done. I don’t expect the Pope to sleep at Red Roof Inns when he travels. And the current holder of that office would likely not mind. What I do expect however is that he cleans up the Priesthood with respect to children. I do expect the head of Metra to make certain that the service is functioning well and when not to try and fix the problem.
Some of the problems that come under the heading of technology glitches that have plagued the new Ventra cards are embarrassing. But I understand that as with the Affordable Care Act most of the folks who take the heat for embarrassing roll-outs are not the ones who have screwed up. That would fall to the lower echelon folks who are either working with a system that is poorly designed or writing code that is miserable. Don’t ask me how I know these things.
I bristle at the presumptions of those who write these kinds of articles because they tend to make it OK, to focus on the stuff that is not of paramount importance. The same could be said of the idea of wondering whether the new head of CDOT rides a bicycle. It would be nice to know that she does, but is that really the place to focus one’s attention?
Her job is to find ways to improve the transportation experience of every individual traveling through the city. That is a tall order in a place the size of Chicago. The very last thing I want her focused on is whether or not some ChainLinker is standing outside her home, camera in hand, ready to expose her for taking an automobile to work or worst of all being driven in an SUV.
Heck if folks are really that concerned with appearances then we had all better get out our sneakers and dust off out picket signs because last time I looked we were doing the load-balancing for Divvy using Mercedes Benz commercial vans! Shouldn’t these guys have to use cargo bikes to move Divvy bikes around? Wouldn’t that be authentic?
Get real! Quit all the posturing and grow a pair. Focus on the stuff that really matters. And should I ever find out that a member of the StreetsBlog team is taking anything other than a bicycle to travel anywhere in the United States well let’s just say my fingers will get tired from snapping all those images of you sinning against the gods of Urban Cycling.