WBEZ | Metra http://www.wbez.org/tags/metra Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en After the accident: Metra and pedestrian fatalities http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/after-accident-metra-and-pedestrian-fatalities-110875 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/170234239%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-Jvys6&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Frequent commuters are all too familiar with the pangs of delays: the groans induced by announcements made over a train intercom, or the confusion created when train or bus operators suggest alternative routes, thanks (or no thanks) to weather, mechanical failures, or backups.</p><p>Chicago-area Metra riders are no strangers to these feelings, but often these delays are brought on by another, more heart-dropping reason: pedestrian accidents and fatalities. It&rsquo;s not uncommon for up to 1,300 Metra riders to be held on a train for more than an hour while investigators gather at the scene to determine what happened.</p><p dir="ltr">And while many wonder why so many of these accidents happen, or how they can be stopped, a Curious Citizen (who chose to remain anonymous) had us consider this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>How can a thorough investigation of Metra fatalities be performed when trains are up and running 90 minutes after a fatality?</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s a bit of a loaded question, of course, as our questioner is basically asking whether a 90-minute timeframe is sufficient to gather evidence.</p><p>From the first moment we spoke with the questioner, we knew this would be sensitive topic, for sure, but experts did make themselves available to explain how pedestrian death investigations work, and they were also willing to address the &ldquo;90 minutes&rdquo; figure directly. And the question&rsquo;s important, too. The issue of pedestrian fatalities by train is regularly <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-metra-suicides-met-20140825-story.html" target="_blank">in the Chicago-area news</a>. Also, anyone involved &mdash; a victim&#39;s family,&nbsp;commuters on the train, taxpayers in Illinois &mdash; deserves to know exactly what&rsquo;s going on outside that train once tragedy strikes.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The extent of the problem</span></p><p>Pedestrian fatalities by Metra trains, or any type of train, for that matter, are not new phenomena. Train deaths, both intentional and accidental, have been an issue for rail officials across the world. <a href="http://gazebonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ian_savage_438_manuscript.pdf" target="_blank">But as Northwestern University researcher Ian Savage found out</a>, these incidents are happening in Illinois more than any other place in the United States.</p><p>According to Savage, one of the main reasons is Chicago&rsquo;s position as a national rail hub.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a combination of the number of trains and the geography,&rdquo; Savage said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re fairly flat around here, and if you go out east, you&rsquo;ll find many more hills. Because trains [there] can&rsquo;t get up steep grades, you have to level this out by digging cuts, you make embankments, so you end up with a lot more natural grade separation. And here in Chicago, we have little natural grade separation.&rdquo;</p><p>Savage looked at data from the Illinois Commerce Commission from 2004 to 2012, and accounted for 338 pedestrian deaths by train within the six-county Chicago area. (Notably, Savage&rsquo;s research did not include the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s elevated trains). Put another way, the area saw one pedestrian death by train every 10 days. Approximately 47 percent of the incidents were suicides.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20graphic%20mockup%203%20final_2.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20graphic%20new%20stats2.png" title="*Data from Chicago metropolitan region, 2004-2012. Note: Does not include CTA data. Non-motorized persons include pedestrians and bike-riders. Source: Ian Savage, Northwestern University " /></div></div><p>According to Savage, these fatalities happen for a variety of reasons. When it comes to accidents, many times people don&rsquo;t understand how dangerous trains really are.</p><p>&ldquo;In some cases, crossings are designed in a way that good people are lead into making bad decisions. And I think that perceptions of speed are very difficult,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d never think about jaywalking across an interstate because there are cars every few seconds. But there are five, 10 [minutes], half an hour where there&rsquo;s no activity on train tracks. So you can always get led into this cognitive assumption that nothing&rsquo;s coming, when something is.&rdquo;</p><p>And while the complexity of suicide makes it difficult to understand the reasoning behind individual deaths, Savage said the frequency and high number of occurrences is likely connected to the availability of trains around Chicago. Through his research, Savage stumbled on a study from Children&rsquo;s Memorial Hospital that looked at methods of suicide. They found that the use of trains in the Chicago area was more than four times the national average.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Metra-related investigations</span></p><p>Beyond the magnitude of these fatalities, Metra faces another predicament, one that&rsquo;s different from those of state or city agencies: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZrzuzWv2wY" target="_blank">Metra prides itself on its timeliness</a> and its ability to get commuters home on time. Its slogan is &ldquo;The way to really fly,&rdquo; and their signs read phrases such as &ldquo;We&rsquo;re on time, are you?&rdquo;</p><p>So when tragedy strikes, not only do Metra officials have to worry about the victim of the incident, but the thousands of passengers sitting on the train. In our question-asker&rsquo;s case, she read that trains were up and running 90 minutes after her friend was struck. (Metra officials say delays that day &mdash; including residual delays for other trains on that line &mdash; ranged anywhere between 30 and 110 minutes.)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20photo%201%20LC.jpg" title="Metra signs advertise the agency's ability to arrive places on time, without delay. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" /></div></div><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a process in place, a lot of times there&rsquo;s a lot of different factors that are involved in that incident which may extend that investigation, or there may be a train strike where we hit a pedestrian, and that person ends up being fine,&rdquo; said Hilary Konczal, director of Safety at Metra. &ldquo;I mean, we&rsquo;ve hit people and we&rsquo;ve broken a leg or an arm, and we were up and moving in 20 minutes, so it depends on the situation.&rdquo;</p><p>Konczal said every investigation begins the same way: A dispatcher is immediately notified of anything that happens on Metra railroads or that involves a Metra train. That dispatcher then notifies a control center, which reaches out to the municipality where the incident occurred.</p><p>&ldquo;Normally we get the call first,&rdquo; said Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner. &ldquo;And we&rsquo;ll get it either from people waiting for the train, or someone driving past. And they&rsquo;ll call that someone was struck by a train or someone just jumped in front of a train.&rdquo;</p><p>The local municipality usually arrives on the scene first because of their close proximity. They&rsquo;ll secure the scene, meet with the train crew, and begin to gather witness testimony. Metra also has its own police force. Its officers do their best to get to the scene ASAP, but it could take some time, as the six-county service area is about the size of Connecticut. Once both departments are on scene, one will take the lead.</p><p><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="420" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/metramap.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Metra rail lines cover six counties and more than 110 municipalities. The service area is about the size of the state of Connecticut, which means travel times for investigators and other responders can be sizable.</em></span></p><p>&ldquo;Usually, if Metra police investigate the incident, we can do it a little quicker. We have evidence technicians on scene 24 hours [per day], and a lot of times local municipality doesn&#39;t have that. They have to call them in, so that may add time to investigation,&rdquo; Konczal said.</p><p>Konczal said his staff constantly network with the over 110 municipalities that Metra travels through, so when an incident happens &ldquo;we have a rapport with them, so we can get traffic moving as soon as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>But depending on the type of accident, and how long it takes to gather all the correct people together, investigations can still take a while. Konczal said if Metra strikes a vehicle, federal regulations require that signals be tested, for example.</p><p>In a fatality situation, officials have to report information to the ICC and the Federal Railroad Administration. Almost all Metra trains have cameras on them now, as do some grade crossings, so film has to be reviewed to determine what happened, and to assess whether it was an intentional death or not. They also have to wait for a coroner to arrive, as he or she has to respectfully remove the remains.</p><p>The Metra Police Department was recently assessed by <a href="http://www.hillardheintze.com/books/metrapolicedept_01_23_14/" target="_blank">Hillard Heintze</a>, an independent council of retired police chiefs. While the group <a href="http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140122/news/701229709/" target="_blank">found many issues with the department overall</a> (e.g., unclear mission, ineffective or nonexistent policies and procedures, staffing issues, etc.) the report did not address how Metra conducts fatality investigations.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/metra%20investigation%20full.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Metra officials investigate a commuter train accident in 2004 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)" /></p><p>Metra officials say there&rsquo;s no minimum or maximum amount of time that they try and meet for each investigation. Other police departments operate this way as well.</p><p>&ldquo;If there&rsquo;s a fatality, there are no minimums,&rdquo; said Monique Bond, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police Department. &ldquo;The main thing is to get the victims, whether they&rsquo;re dead or hurt. That&rsquo;s the priority.&rdquo;</p><p>Bond said each investigation varies tremendously, depending on the incident: It could be hours, or it could be one hour.</p><p>But what doesn&rsquo;t change per incident, according to Metra officials and police, is the difficulty of dealing with these fatalities, both for him and his staff.</p><p>Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall said his department, like many others around the state, provides mental health services for any officer that responds to traumatic events. Naperville recently dealt with two suicides by train.</p><p>Konczal added that Metra staff take the issue of pedestrian deaths personally. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re people. They may be your brother, my sister, your friend, it&rsquo;s just a shame,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We have employees that go out there. We have the engineer that&rsquo;s traumatized, and the family of the deceased. ... I mean, it&rsquo;s real, and it gets very personal, and at times it gets frustrating.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re constantly looking at ways to educate the public. We&rsquo;re looking at our numbers, the day of the week incidents occur - and it gets frustrating trying to identify how to reduce these risks, without trying to put up some sort of virtual fence. It&rsquo;s just very hard.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Waiting in the wings</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/steven%20vance%20bartlett%20station.jpg" title="Signage at Metra's Bartlett station on the Milwaukee District/West Line route indicates safety precautions for pedestrians crossing the tracks. (Flickr/Steven Vance)" /></p><p>Metra, as well as local law enforcement agencies, suggest that some investigations can take far less than the 90-minute figure that started our look into train-related pedestrian deaths. According to Joe Schwieterman, transportation professor at DePaul University (and Metra rider for 23 years), delays of any kind can be difficult to bear.</p><p>&ldquo;You feel the tension on board right away, people start making phone calls, and after five or ten minutes, you know, you start to wonder, &lsquo;Is this gonna be a nightmare?&rsquo; So that speculation starts,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>According to Schweiterman, everyone in the region has been startled by how a fairly small commuter rail system (in the national sense) has such a regular pattern of hitting people. And a lot of it, he said, isn&rsquo;t on Metra.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a whole series of issues, like willful deaths, and of course just a preponderance of freight trains which makes these crossings very difficult, and even just people dying on the tracks who, you know - drug use along railway tracks - there&rsquo;s a long history of a place where deviants often go.&rdquo;</p><p>But when it comes to whether these investigations are long enough or comprehensive enough, Schwieterman said anything longer than the current delays wouldn&rsquo;t be practical.</p><p>&ldquo;My view is that there&rsquo;s rarely a complex investigation needed,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;When somebody gets hit, the reason that person got hit is important from a data standpoint &mdash; and I mean, of course, for the family it&rsquo;s an absolute travesty &mdash; but from an investigation standpoint we need to know why people are getting hit and how we can fix the problems.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;But it&rsquo;s not like a crime scene, where there&rsquo;s an assailant out there who we have to find, and he may have left a clue behind.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>If you or someone you know exhibits any of the <a href="http://reportingonsuicide.org/warning-signs-of-suicide/" target="_blank">warning signs of suicide</a>, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)</strong></p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ Reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/after-accident-metra-and-pedestrian-fatalities-110875 Morning Shift: Do increased smoking restrictions mean less smokers? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-18/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-mean <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr lanier67.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A proposed bill in the state Senate would fine smokers who light up with kids in the car. But, does a ticket really prevent people from lighting up? We hear from smokers and those looking to curb the addiction.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-me/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-me.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-me" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Do increased smoking restrictions mean less smokers?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 18 Feb 2014 08:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-18/morning-shift-do-increased-smoking-restrictions-mean Morning Shift: Holacracy seeks to draw perfect circles in the workplace http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-12/morning-shift-holacracy-seeks-draw-perfect-circles <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Circles Flickr Creativity103.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>How&#39;d you like to work without a boss? We dive into the idea of holacracy where workplace authority and decision making are evenly distributed. Also, what happens after prison?&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-holacracy-concept-seeks-to-draw-perf/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-holacracy-concept-seeks-to-draw-perf.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-holacracy-concept-seeks-to-draw-perf" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Holacracy seeks to draw perfect circles in the workplace" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 12 Feb 2014 08:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-12/morning-shift-holacracy-seeks-draw-perfect-circles Morning Shift: The Beatles invade America-on the small screen http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-04/morning-shift-beatles-invade-america-small-screen <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr by Affendaddy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Next weekend marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show. We discuss that monumental moment and other important moments in musical/TV history. And, 10 years of Facebook-what&#39;s the social networking giant&#39;s future?</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-beatles-invade-america/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-beatles-invade-america.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-beatles-invade-america" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The Beatles invade America-on the small screen" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 04 Feb 2014 07:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-02-04/morning-shift-beatles-invade-america-small-screen Morning Shift: Triva in the pursuit of tolerance http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-23/morning-shift-triva-pursuit-tolerance-109431 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/131223 Cover.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Tracy Baim of Windy City Times and Tony play the new trivia game &quot;That&#39;s So Gay&quot; that aims to break stereotypes and explore LGBTQ history. And, we check in with the Cook County Republican Party to learn about their endorsement for the gubernatorial race.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-triva-in-the-pursuit-of-tolerance/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-triva-in-the-pursuit-of-tolerance.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-triva-in-the-pursuit-of-tolerance" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Triva in the pursuit of tolerance" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 23 Dec 2013 11:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-23/morning-shift-triva-pursuit-tolerance-109431 Morning Shift: Drawing a line on where guns can be drawn http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-10/morning-shift-drawing-line-where-guns-can-be-drawn <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Gun - Flickr - phoosh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today we take on the the gun debate and how a line may be drawn at certain locations. Where do you think guns should not be banned? Then, Chris Jones and Chris Vire give us a preview on plays and musicals Chicago theaters are planning to let grace their stages.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-61/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-61.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-61" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Drawing a line on where guns can be drawn" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 10 Sep 2013 08:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-09-10/morning-shift-drawing-line-where-guns-can-be-drawn Metra in the wind, sleet and rain http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/metra-wind-sleet-and-rain-108252 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Metra train thumbnail image Flickr Larry Darling.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cory Feign remembers being marooned somewhere between Mount Prospect and Chicago&rsquo;s Ogilvie Transportation Center, staring out the windows of a Metra train at a drizzly little storm.</p><p>What I would think of as a typical storm came through,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The kind of thing that if you were a kid you&rsquo;d be riding your bike through puddles as the storm was wrapping up, that trains should keep moving through. It didn&rsquo;t seem like, &lsquo;Thank God they stopped this train.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>That got him thinking:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>When and why did Metra start shutting down the entire regional train system due to potentially severe weather?</em></p><p>The 37-year-old rides his bike to Metra&rsquo;s Union Pacific Northwest line in suburban Mount Prospect every morning, commuting to his job across the street from Ogilvie as a trader for WRN. He says in recent years severe weather warnings have screeched trains to a halt more often than they used to.</p><p>At least compared to 2012, Cory is right. <a href="http://climateillinois.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/wet-june-and-wettest-year-to-date-in-illinois/">Until July this was Illinois&rsquo; wettest year to date</a>, with parts of the state <a href="http://climateillinois.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/il-prcp-mpe-m2d-dev-20130630.png">including northern Cook County, where Cory&#39;s train goes</a>, registering big departures from average precipitation between January and June.</p><p>Last year, extreme weather delayed 41 Union Pacific trains, compared to 209 so far this year. A lightning strike in April knocked out signals near Ogilvie, delaying 74 trains in one fell swoop.</p><p><strong>Ever-watchful tracks</strong></p><p>When we set out to answer Cory&rsquo;s question, Metra spokesman Mike Gillis corrected our course right away.</p><p>&ldquo;Metra has not recently shut down system-wide in bad weather,&rdquo; Gillis said. &ldquo;What has happened, however, is that BNSF Railway and Union Pacific have stopped trains.&rdquo; Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific are independent train companies, based in Texas and Nebraska respectively. They operate the Metra lines that bear their names, while Metra operates the seven remaining lines in the local commuter rail system.</p><p>BNSF, UP and Metra share the goal of keeping riders safe, Gillis said, but their operating rules vary slightly. So we asked Mark Davis, spokesman for Union Pacific.</p><p>&ldquo;Weather plays a huge role in the rail industry and has since its beginning,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The weather service AccuWeather provides UP with national weather data, he said, but the railroad company is already well-connected. It has sensors along railroad tracks across its 23-state network that measure the heat in railcar bearings. Those sensors feed data into a master computer system, which also gets information from about 1,400 temperature stations operated by UP.</p><p>&ldquo;Why is that important to us? Well, extreme weather fluctuations impact the rail itself,&rdquo; Davis said. &ldquo;During the summer, in extreme heat, rail wants to grow, metal wants to expand and grow. During the winter it&rsquo;s just the opposite &mdash; you have a huge temperature swing on the cold side and rail wants to pull apart.&rdquo;</p><p>Temperature swings cause slowdowns, or even put kinks in railroad switches.</p><p><strong>What happens during the rough stuff?</strong></p><p>When the weather&rsquo;s bad &mdash; but not bad enough to force a full shutdown &mdash; trains slow to less than 25 miles per hour. Metra dispatchers tell trains to reduce speed when there is a weather advisory for a tornado or severe thunderstorm.</p><p>High winds also pose a threat. At 70 miles per hour, wind can blow over a train car, but UP slows or stops service at 65 mph, in case there is a gust. AccuWeather currently provides wind speed information, updated every 15 minutes, but UP is rolling out its own network of wind sensors, Davis said.</p><p>Right now their closest wind sensor to Chicago is in central Iowa.</p><p>BNSF is working with Metra in Chicago to install wind detectors to provide real-time wind speed data along their line.</p><p>During a tornado warning, all UP trains stop in the warned area and usually wait at least 30 minutes after a warning is lifted, Davis said.</p><p>Metra uses similar protocol. Trains slow to 25 mph or less when there is a wind advisory above 60 mph. If wind speeds are expected to be above 70 mph, dispatchers tell trains outside the warning area to stop short as they close in, while workers inspect the track ahead. At 80 mph, or during a tornado warning, dispatchers instruct trains to stop at the first safe location and await further instructions even if they&rsquo;re outside the warning area.</p><p>Wind hasn&rsquo;t toppled any Midwest commuter trains in recent years, but coal trains and overloaded freight cars have blown over. In China<a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20070302073413/http:/www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/02/28/china.train.ap/index.html"> hurricane-strength winds during a sandstorm derailed an 11-car train, killing at least four people and injuring another 30</a>.</p><p>Luckily for Metra riders, such speeds aren&rsquo;t common in northern Illinois. According to Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel, wind speeds have only topped 60 about 14 times since the early &rsquo;80s at O&rsquo;Hare (wind speed data is gathered at commercial airports).</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to say if the number is really changing over time,&rdquo; Angel said. &ldquo;It appears to occur most often in the summer months.&rdquo;</p><p>But wind that wouldn&rsquo;t blow over cars might still rip off tree branches or bring down power lines. If a train engineer sees something on the tracks, he&rsquo;ll radio back to Metra&rsquo;s offices downtown.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve empowered our train crews,&rdquo; Davis said. &ldquo;If they feel it&rsquo;s unsafe they have the power to stop the train.&rdquo;</p><p>The worst disruption to area trains in recent years was the February second blizzard in 2011. Five Metra rail lines closed as more than 20 inches of snow blanketed Chicago. The other lines had to run on Sunday schedules.</p><p>So what about Cory&rsquo;s sense that shutdowns have become more common? Even if trains are still running during high winds and thunderstorms, he says it seems like they&rsquo;re running slowly. And those delays ripple out.</p><p>UP spokesman Davis likens it to O&rsquo;Hare, where a thunderstorm at one airport can affect airports across the country.</p><p><strong>Comparing notes: With your friends and en masse</strong></p><p>Cory has several friends who take a few of the other Metra lines. During delays they&rsquo;ve taken to sharing notes on weather conditions and announcements from train engineers.</p><p>&ldquo;I take the Northwest line and I have friends that take several of the other train lines. We kind of compare notes when these things are happening, because you get kind of bored sitting on the train with nothing to do,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Sometimes my friends will be like, &lsquo;Have you heard anything?&rsquo; &hellip; We have our own communication system to figure out when we might be able to get back home. It seems like that wouldn&rsquo;t be too hard to implement for the general public.&rdquo;</p><p>Metra does have<a href="https://twitter.com/Metra"> a Twitter feed</a>, which announces delays and advisories as they happen. &nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>ME Advisory - Inbound Train #118 Operating Approximately 15 to 20 Minutes Late <a href="http://t.co/7onDHeRl6Y">http://t.co/7onDHeRl6Y</a></p>&mdash; Metra (@Metra) <a href="https://twitter.com/Metra/statuses/362243482519220224">July 30, 2013</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>With all the different weather conditions that could slow or stop a train, Cory&rsquo;s impromptu database may be at a disadvantage. But if he and his friends have service on their smartphones, they might do well to check weather maps and advisories. The people running their train sure are.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes for WBEZ. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @cementley</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 31 Jul 2013 16:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/metra-wind-sleet-and-rain-108252 Metra’s pick to investigate wrongdoing claims pulls out http://www.wbez.org/news/metra%E2%80%99s-pick-investigate-wrongdoing-claims-pulls-out-108135 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Metra Meeting_130722_yp.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Metra officials were supposed to meet Monday to discuss the hiring of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Collins. He was to look into patronage allegations brought by ex-CEO Alex Clifford. At a Regional Transit Authority meeting last week, Clifford said he was forced out for not bowing to political pressure from House Speaker Michael Madigan.</p><p>Clifford alleged that two Metra board members in particular, Chairman Brad O&rsquo;Halloran and Larry Huggins, pressured him to approve a request by Madigan to giving a pay raise to a Metra employee and acquaintance of Madigan. At last week&rsquo;s hearing, both O&rsquo;Halloran and Huggins denied the accusations.</p><p>Last week, O&rsquo;Halloran named Collins to head an investigation into allegations against the rail service. But late Sunday, the law firm of Perkins Coie notified Metra of a &ldquo;potential conflict&rdquo; and that Collins could not take the case.</p><p>&ldquo;The board expressed their disappointment. And Chairman O&rsquo;Halloran expressed his disappointment that Mr. Collins cannot undertake this endeavor,&rdquo; says Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis. &ldquo;But he remains committed to interviewing other lawyers with outstanding reputations and investigative skills.&rdquo;</p><p>A written statement from Metra does not say what the conflict is. Gillis says he can&rsquo;t say whether a new investigator would be in place before Metra&rsquo;s next scheduled board meeting on August 16th.</p><p>Gillis says O&rsquo;Halloran will look for an alternative to Mr. Collins.</p><p>Clifford resigned in June and was given a severance package totaling more than $700,000. When asked at the RTA meeting about the large amount, Clifford said it was compensation to alleged damages to his reputation and the possibility of not finding another CEO job. Metra attorney Joseph Gagliardo said the money was to put off a protracted legal battle had Clifford stayed with Metra. Both sides say it was not hush money.</p><p><em>Yolanda Perdomo is a WBEZ host and producer. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef">@yolandanews</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 22 Jul 2013 12:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/metra%E2%80%99s-pick-investigate-wrongdoing-claims-pulls-out-108135 Madigan asked Metra to give pay raise to associate http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-asked-metra-give-pay-raise-associate-108032 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_metra_vxla_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>House Speaker Michael Madigan says his office asked senior staff at Metra to consider a pay raise for an associate of his who was employed at the commuter rail agency in northeastern Illinois.</p><p>Madigan addresses the matter in a one-page statement he prepared for lawmakers investigating a costly severance deal for Metra&#39;s former CEO Alex Clifford. Clifford resigned last month and has alleged he was pushed out for resisting political pressure in decisions about hiring and contracts.</p><p>The link to Madigan, one of Illinois&#39; most powerful politicians, was an unexpected turn in hearings that are unearthing details of the eye-popping severance package for Clifford.</p><p>In Thursday&#39;s statement, Madigan says he withdrew his recommendation for a pay raise after learning that Clifford had expressed discomfort over it.</p></p> Thu, 11 Jul 2013 14:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-asked-metra-give-pay-raise-associate-108032 Metra installing defibrillators on all its trains http://www.wbez.org/news/metra-installing-defibrillators-all-its-trains-104585 <p><p>The Chicago-area&#39;s commuter rail agency is installing hundreds of portable, easy-to-use defibrillators on all of its trains.</p><p>Metra is only the second major metropolitan transit agency in the country to make the machines available for use in the event a passenger suffers a cardiac arrest.</p><p>In 2009, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter trains became the first in the U.S. to be equipped with automated external defibrillators.</p><p>Defibrillators are required on airliners and in public places such as sports stadiums. But cost and lack of training have prevented a greater proliferation.</p><p>A $536,000 grant from the Regional Transportation Authority is helping to pay for Metra&#39;s defibrillators.</p><p>Metra Chairman Brad O&#39;Halloran says he hopes staff will never have to use the machines but that it&#39;s important to make them available if needed.</p></p> Thu, 27 Dec 2012 13:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/metra-installing-defibrillators-all-its-trains-104585