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Public Transit Getting Back To Normal Friday

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'L' Train Bypass

A CTA Blue Line train leaves the Damen stop with passengers still on the platform. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) – Officials at the CTA, Metra and Pace say they are striving for normal weekday service Friday.

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 also restore service Friday morning on the three Niles Free Bus routes for the first time since the blizzard that dumped 20.2 inches of snow on the area.

WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reported that there were a few problems as they got back on their feet Thursday, just one day after the snow stopped flying.

During the afternoon rush Thursday, the Chicago Transit Authority had to employ a brief bus shuttle because of an electrical fire at the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports

Problems also arose on the ‘L’ during the morning rush. On the Blue Line, there was a 20-minute delay due to an equipment problem, which resulted in extremely crowded trains and long waits for riders, CTA President Richard Rodriguez said Thursday.

Many Blue Line riders discovered that trains were so packed that they couldn’t get on.

Meanwhile, Metra encountered some mechanical and switching problems Thursday. Two automobiles left on the tracks caused the most severe delays, in Hinsdale and Arlington Heights.

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.

So far, there is no sign of the mechanical problems that crippled public transit during the blizzards of 1979 and 1999.

On Jan. 13 and 14, 1979, 18.8 inches of snow fell on top of 7 to 10 inches already on the ground. The CTA tried to push ‘L’ train cars through the snow, resulting in damage to brakes, generators, motors and couplers, Chicago-L.org recalls. Meanwhile, road salt shorted out rail circuits and caused fires, and by Jan. 29, half the train cars were out of service, the Web site reported.

The ‘L’ became so overcrowded that some people rode outside between train cars, or on the ends of train cars, even though the temperature was below zero. Some people even jumped off moving express trains to get to their stops, Chicago-L.org reported.

Meanwhile, a decision to bypass African-American neighborhoods on the West Side on trains making runs from downtown to Oak Park made many Chicagoans angry. The problems on the CTA contributed to Mayor Michael Bilandic’s loss to Jane Byrne in the February mayoral primary.

On Jan. 1-3, 1999, 21.6 inches of snow fell on Chicago. While the recovery in that case 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.

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