Can we board? Photo by Melissa McClarin.
Ed. note: This op-ed was originally posted on The Chainlink by Adam “Cezar” Jenkins and is published here with his permission. Jenkins commutes on Metra from Mokena to his job as a web developer downtown. He is vice president of the Folks on Spokes bicycling club in Southland Chicago. -Steven
My family is car-lite. One car. I’ve been riding Metra for over a year to work and the city for whatnot. Something the entire time has stuck out at me.
I will preface the below with the understanding that I know it’s getting better, but that it exists at all is a problem if you support a real workable public transit system.
There’s one thing above all others that makes me want to buy a second car and use it. Inconsistency. Let’s start with what hits home with The Chainlink the most. Bikes.
I can’t trust Metra when it comes to bikes. I’m lucky to ride the Rock Island and not have a problem. The conductors are nice. This isn’t true across the board though. There’s always that idea in the back of my head that I could be denied on a conductor’s choice.
I’m ok with the rush hour restrictions. Could they be better? Not having to wait till 7:40 PM to bring a bike back home. Yes, they could. It’s not consistent though. Of course the taste brought this to mind. Bikes are not allowed on the Metra for over a week. If someone were reverse commuting and depended on their bike for the last mile? They are out of luck.
So what’s the option? The distances are too great, so you drive. You buy a car and you drive.
Next, the catering to downtown events is ridiculous. Last night I had my bag searched getting on the train after my Python user group meeting. I had an empty glass growler. One I really liked. After arguing and realizing I’m a regular they let me carry it home, but it hammered down an important point. I can’t trust taking the Metra. Unless I’m keeping close track of of whatever rules they are deciding to enforce this week.
Except in very rare cases, I can get on the CTA and expect the same rules day in and out. It’s a real transportation system.
What it seems to come down to is that Metra puts a lot of restrictions into place catering to events to make their lives easier. They could have not have searched bags. They could have just enforced rules about unruliness on the trains, just like any other day.
It seems like Metra if for exactly two groups. Commuters obviously. Then tourists. It’s not an alternative transportation system.
All that said, the seats are really comfy.