CHICAGO (WBBM) – Stow the phones and turn down the iPods. Metra will begin testing “quiet cars” in early January.

The first and last cars of rush-hour Rock Island District trains will be the test beds. That works out to about 40 trains a day.

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Before the three-month tryout begins, Metra Acting Executive Director Bill Tupper said riders must be informed and signage printed, including the palm cards that conductors will give to high-decibel offenders that will lay out the rules for the cars.

“Peer pressure impacts on it, too,” he said. “Once the person realizes that they’re the only one talking in a car it’s going to stand out a lot more than if there’s 10 other people talking on the phone.”

Metra wants to see if introducing the quiet car concept leads to crowding on some cars and empty conditions elsewhere.

Tupper said he is taking guidance from New Jersey Transit, which has been testing the concept and intends to roll it out system-wide in January.

He said he fully expects to roll it out eventually system-wide, at all hours.

Tupper outlined the plans one month after Metra asked riders, in its monthly on-board newsletter, On the Bilevel, what they thought.

Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said he read every one of the 1,000 replies and said more than 850 indicated that they favored quiet cars.

“They almost all said that they’ve had one or more experiences of their fellow riders being a nuisance, noisy, and they want an environment in which they can relax and say that’s frequently not the case,” Gillis said.

Those who said they opposed the concept did not see a problem, or already believed the trains were quiet enough.

While New Jersey Transit has brightly-colored exterior wraps on its quiet cars, Tupper said Metra’s test cars will merely have on-board signage. He said the Rock Island District was chosen because all of its trains are serviced at one location, and because the line is one that is owned by Metra.

Tupper said testing the concept on lines owned by Union Pacific and the BNSF Ry., and operated under contract to Metra, would have been more complicated.

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