Service reliability issues on Metra’s BNSF Line intensified recently with the implementation of new federally-mandated train safety regulations which prompted an entirely new train schedule. On Thursday, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and State Representative David S. Olsen (R-Downers Grove) met with Metra CEO Jim Derwinski and his staff to express their concerns, and find out what steps are being taken to improve BNSF performance.
“Metra is one of the largest commuter rail systems in the country, and the BNSF is its busiest line,” said Durkin. “Thousands of commuters from the western suburbs rely on this line daily to get to and from work, and they need to know their trains will be on time and that the existing number of rail cars can accommodate all travelers.”
“Almost every day I hear from at least one constituent who is frustrated over paying higher fares for a lower quality of commuter rail service,” said Olsen. “Prior to the implementation of the Positive Train Control (PTC) safety improvements, BNSF Line users were experiencing frequent delays, regardless of the weather. The new train schedule and reduction in the number of cars on trains have only added to the frustration.”
The lawmakers, who represent commuters from municipalities through much of the BNSF service area, were told that delays had improved significantly and that on Wednesday the trains ran 98.9% on time. They also learned that six adjustments had already been made to address train overcrowding.
“Metra officials appear to be committed to solving the problems commuters are experiencing, and we were told they will continue monitoring on-time and capacity issues on the BNSF Line and make additional adjustments as needed,” Durkin said.
“I was pleased to learn that trains were operating nearly 100% on time Wednesday,” added Olsen. “I hope to see that trend continue.”
Both lawmakers said they support the new PTC safety improvements, and will continue to be in communication with Derwinski while issues continue to be resolved.