Grid Bits: CTA bus job fair, pay with smartphone on Metra, new federal transit safety regulations


A Metra train crosses Canal Street in downtown Chicago. Photo by David Wilson. 

There are 6 articles in this transit-focused edition of Grid Bits, a sporadically occurring category of posts that summarize and link to recent articles in other news media. At the end you’ll find two Grid Chicago-authored commentaries. The first attempting to explain the logistical reasons why CTA’s Blue and Red Lines, the busiest, don’t have 5000-series cars; the second recommending a possible weekend-only pilot project to allow bicycles on South Shore trains.

In the federal transportation bill that was signed into law in early July, a provision was included that requires the Federal Transit Administration to work with state departments of transportation to develop safety regulations for transit providers across the country (including the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace). No such regulation currently exists, as it does for intercity bus travel, air travel, and highways, among other modes. Transit agencies, understanding consequences of poor emergency responses, have been self-regulating. It remains to be seen if such regulation will be an improvement over past self-regulation. The Chicago Tribune reports: Continue reading Grid Bits: CTA bus job fair, pay with smartphone on Metra, new federal transit safety regulations

Grid Shots: Crossing

Today’s theme is “crossing” and it was very easy to find photos for this one. I first look for photos by searching for the theme in the Flickr group. A variety of photos showing different kinds of crossings appeared.


Cycling across the wide Western Avenue on Milwaukee Avenue. This photo wasn’t labeled with “crossing” but it was recently uploaded so I saw it in the group page first. Photo by Clint. 


Crossing guards in Blue Island. Photo by Jane Healy. 


A railroad crossing sign in the Wilmette Purple Line parking lot. The public isn’t allowed to cross the here (only CTA workers), and for the most part the tracks are guarded by the concrete wall. Photo by Michelle Reitman.


A Metra Rock Island train crosses other railroad tracks at a 90-degree angle at the 16th Street tower. Photo by Eric Pancer. 


This CTA bus stretches across the entire intersection. Photo by Señor Codo. 


Ducks and their offspring will cross here, in Wheaton, Illinois. Photo by Clark Maxwell. 

Metra’s inconsistency makes me want to drive: Am I the only one?


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. Continue reading Metra’s inconsistency makes me want to drive: Am I the only one?

Taste of Chicago brings 5-day bike blackout on Metra, Wednesday through Sunday


Visitors deboard a Metra train at the North Western Station, 500 W Madison Street. Photo by Tripp. 

Starting tomorrow, Wednesday, July 11, Metra will disallow bikes on all trains at all times, with the exception of folding bikes in a protective cover (essentially in its own luggage). The blackout period ends with the last departing trains of the Sunday, July 15, service date (some trains may leave after 12 AM Monday, but are still included in the blackout).

Our website, Can I bring my bike on Metra right now? always has the most up-to-date answer to that question as well as a simple breakdown of the additional rules Metra imposes on those who want to travel with a bicycle:

  • Bring a bungee cord, waist belt, or rope to secure bike inside train
  • Folding bikes are allowed at all times (even during blackout dates), on all trains, in a bag or luggage
  • Not all train lines operate on weekends, Sundays, or holidays – check the schedule!
  • Heritage Corridor allows only folding bikes.

For those who want to attend the Taste of Chicago, transit is always a great choice. There are CTA, Metra, and South Shore train stations within the Grant Park venue, and within a couple blocks. Several CTA bus lines stop at Grant Park.

Bike parking is available at various locations around Millennium Park, and around and within Grant Park. The City of Chicago has more information on planning a visit.

Comment of the day: What is the role of a regional transportation authority?


Photo of a Metra Electric train at Millennium Station by Jim Watkins. Mike Payne has proposed using the Metra Electric system as the Gray Line, run in “rapid transit” fashion by the CTA.

We posted on Tuesday about Metra’s online survey and open houses to gather public input which will help the commuter rail agency develop its strategic plan.

Randy Neufeld commented on that post:

This is an example of what is broken. Metra should not do a strategic plan. Metra, CTA, and PACE should do a strategic plan together. What’s next, competing in Congress and Springfield to fund competing strategic plans? RTA and CMAP should require a unifed transit plan for the region. Transit funding is in crisis. This is no time for Metra to plan solo.

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) has existed since 1974 and has its own strategic plan (“The Way Forward”). From its mission statement: “The RTA’s primary responsibilities became [in a 1983 reorganization] financial and budget oversight of CTA, Metra and Pace, and regional transit planning issues”.

The three service boards operate in a well-defined geographic and economic region, serving the same customers, the same communities, connect with each other at the same stations, and even have similar routes. They should be “acting regionally”.

Metra seeks public input to develop first strategic plan in decades


A Rock Island Metra train heading towards Blue Island across 95th Street in Chicago. Photo by Jeff Zoline. 

From a Metra news release:

Furthering its goal of soliciting input and engaging in dialogue with its major stakeholders, Metra is asking its riders, the public, elected officials and others for their help as it begins to craft its first strategic plan in several decades. You can offer input by coming out to one of our public open house forums [calendar below] throughout the region. You can also provide input by completing a short survey actively available here from 7/2/12 until 8/10/12.

All meeting materials are on the Strategic Plan webpage.

Tuesday, July 10, 4 PM – 7 PM
Board Room, 13th Floor
547 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60661 Continue reading Metra seeks public input to develop first strategic plan in decades