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Metra trains to arrive in clumps

If you miss your train from Evanston to Chicago during the weekday morning rush, you may have to wait 30 minutes or more for the next train under new schedules that take effect Aug. 21.

Metra officials involved in the new scheduling met one-on-one with interested citizens at a special open house forum Wednesday evening at the Evanston Public Library. Most of the complaints, they said, dealt with the uneven flow of trains during the morning and evening rush periods.

The new arrangement was necessary, they said, because of an eight-year construction project, partially funded by federal stimulus money, that involves replacing 22 bridges on the north side of Chicago and rebuilding the Ravenswood station.

To work around the construction, both northbound and southbound trains will use the same track along different parts of the line. The most efficient way to do this, they said, was to send trains over the track in clumps of two or three before reversing the flow.

The upshot is that, even though there will be about the same number of trains carrying the same number of passengers, the trains will be grouped so that they won’t have to stand in line to take their turn down the single track. Theoretically, the trains would not have to make unscheduled stops enroute, although the new schedule lengthens the average travel time between Evanston and Chicago by some two to five minutes.

The proposed schedule, available on Metra’s website, may be tweaked a bit between now and Aug. 21, officials said, in response to public concerns, but they warned commuters not to get their hopes up, as a change that benefits commuters at one station usually involves making matters worse for commuters at other stations along the route.

Construction updates will be available from the website by logging onto the MyMetra section, selecting the UP North line, and checking the box that says “email notifications of service alerts on my train routes.”

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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