Chicago Sun-Times

The Cranky Commuter and Metra riders

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Today's "Ride" column talks about how rides on Metra can be cheaper than rides on the CTA for city dwellers. But before I start sounding too rosy about Metra, I have to complain about some Metra riders and their unwillingness to make room for people getting on the train from stops in the city.

Everyone who rides the CTA knows the problem with seat hoggers -- people who leave their bags on the seats next to them so others can't sit down. As someone who rides both Metra and the CTA, believe me, when it comes to sharing space, CTA riders are all charm school graduates compared to Metra riders

There must be something about the agony of riding all the way from Fox Lake that make people think they're entitled to spread all their stuff out. If you ask them to move so you can sit down, some of them look at you like you're begging for spare change. I notice a lot of people who get on at city stops are meek about this, and just stand until the end of the ride so they won't have to go to the trouble of asking Mr. Suburban Corporate Windbag to move his &*%$#! briefcase. Not me. I'm tired in the morning, and I want my seat. I channel my inner Sister Harriet and firmly, politely ask people to move their gear so I can sit down. I consider it a teaching moment. If Mr. Suburban Corporate Windbag gives me any grief, I ask "So, did you buy two tickets?"

The other problem of boarding a train at city stops is that people don't want to move in. Often there are empty seats on the upper level, but jerks prefer to sit on the stairs, so late-boarding passengers can't get to the seats, and have to stand. Again -- it's a teaching moment. Tell them to move. I wish Metra conductors would pay more attention to this.

Anyone have any theories about why some Metra riders hoard territory and cling to it like junkyard dogs?

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While I agree with Mary entirely, one thing I want to point out is that Metra has stated repeatedly in their "On The Bi-Level" newsletter that holding a Metra ticket "guarantees" nothing. It ENTITLES you to a ride, but if a train is full you can be denied boarding.

A ticket also does NOT guarantee you a seat. In fact many trains carry a total passenger count well in excess of the train's total seating capacity. Train #407 on the Rock Island line is a prime example. Two more passenger cars would alleviate the standee problem and the associated safety issues.

I ride train #402 from Joliet in the morning and my "pet peeve" is people who sit near folks trying sleep and either carry on a loud conversation - sometimes on opposite sides of the car or from the top level to the lower level - or chat on their cell phones. Who they could be talking to before 6am is anyone's guess.

Way back in the late 60's I used to ride the Burlington train to/from Chicago. I used to get onto the train at the approximately same car. You soon got to recognize the faces on the car.

People were for the most part civil and courteous. The one set of seats were "reserved" for the 4 card players (I do not remember what game they played). There was no other reserved seats it was always first come first seated. I do not ever recall anyone being discourteous, no one talked to anyone period.

Even when the snow/rain/whatever made the ride a mess everyone just bared with it. The ride was approximately 25 minutes going/coming and the train reasonably ran on time. Outside of the price being a little high ($20 monthly?), I can say it was worth it. Just in not having to put up with the people who ride the CTA. I think there is something in the water that makes Chicagoans bad CTA riders. I moved back into the city in the mid 70's and hated every minute on the CTA. The cost was less but the people were less than lets say nice. I stopped using the CTA in the early 90's and I drove to the suburbs and the drive was not fun compared to the train. If I could have taken a train I would have but that was not a real option for me.

Give me the train any day.

As a former Fox Lake to Union Metra Rider, I not only have to agree with your statement, but also must add, now as a City-dweller, I see now it goes both ways.

I was one of those persons who could not understand why a person would not move their foot for someone to walk by, much less take the laptop bag and put it on their lap so another can sit. After seeing no one wishing to move from a front seat or stand for a person with challenges to sit in an area designed for persons with accessories. This really made my ride frustrating. You could definitely tell the difference between those who really appreciate the Metra, and those who rode to save mileage on their Lexus.

Can Suburbanites and Chicagoans be just as stingy-seated, ABSOLUTELY, in train or bus (let's not even get to the Chicago cab situation - who has priority there?)! Pretty much think it's people in general taking the rushy-pushy-my way or the highway-3-feet rule way out of hand.

I want to know what happened in the past 15 years or so to commuters that said you no longer need to be courteous or respectful of others? How about being nice every once in a while? I know most of the conductors and bus drivers try to be. This goes for the expressway drivers too!

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on March 16, 2009 9:46 AM.

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