CTA & Metra: Back On Track

CHICAGO (WBBM) — Chicago-area mass transit got back on its feet Thursday, just one day after the snow stopped flying.

LISTEN: WBBM 780’s Bob Roberts reports

Metra, which ran no trains on several of its routes Wednesday and only limited service on the rest, operated a full weekday schedule Thursday, although it faced delays in both the morning and afternoon rush. Some of the issues involved balky switches and other cold- or snow-related mechanical problems, although spokesman Tom Miller says the biggest problem was man-made, when a BNSF Ry. freight train struck an automobile in Hinsdale, backing up seven trains for as long as 40 minutes.

The motorist was able to dash to safety seconds before impact.

Miller said that switching problems delayed peak period afternoon trains on the Milwaukee District North Line, and a stalled car on the tracks on the Union Pacific Northwest Line, in Arlington Heights, delayed several trains for up to 45 minutes.

CTA encountered one problem during the afternoon rush. Spokesperson Lambrini Lukidis said that an electrical fire in a track-level power box at the Cermak/Chinatown Red Line stop, which forced CTA to employ a bus shuttle between the Grand and 35th Stations for 30 minutes.

Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said full service operated Thursday on its 200 routes, in contrast to the handful that operated Wednesday morning and the 50 that operated Wednesday afternoon. He said delays were not uncommon because of the inability of plow crews to clear all lanes of some of the thoroughfares on which Pace buses operate.

Metra is expecting to operate normal service on all of its lines Friday, as are the CTA and Pace, with one exception. There will be no service on the Pace 892/Hammond-Hodgkins UPS route.

Pace will restore service Friday morning on the three Niles Free Bus routes for the first time since the storm.

By contrast, mass transit in the Chicago area made nowhere near as quick a recovery following the major storms of January 1999 and January 1979. In 1979, CTA rapid transit service ground to a halt on lines that ran on the surface, cuts or embankments for several days. Although the 1999 recovery was aided by the storm occurring over a holiday weekend, the O’Hare branch of the CTA Blue Line was put out of service for days in 1999 because of problems that forced rebuilding of the power-carrying third rail. And after both the 1979 and 1999 storms, CTA was plagued for months afterward by burned out traction motors, which propel ‘L’ trains.

Lukidis said there was no immediate sign of any similar problems following this week’s storm.

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