Metra restrictions have some Southland commuters railing against summit
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org May 17, 2012 5:08PM
Mark Jongsma, of Frankfort, boards an inbound train with his coffee in one hand and his lunch slung over his shoulder at the Metra Station on 80th Avenue in Tinley Park, Illinois, Tuesday, May 15, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
These are in effect Saturday through Monday:
All Metra riders may be subject to search before boarding or en route.
Only one bag will be allowed, not to exceed 15 inches by 15 inches by 4 inches deep. Boxes, backpacks, bicycles, parcels and luggage will not be allowed on trains. They must be removed or disposed of.
Food or beverages will not be allowed. Any liquids must be less than 3 ounces. Breast milk will be allowed, but subject to inspection.
Any type of tools, weapons, pipes, stakes, wood, pocketknives or pepper spray will be prohibited.
Law enforcement personnel must identify themselves and present credentials and any weapons. Security guards will not be allowed to carry weapons.
Failure to comply or attempts to avoid screening will result in ejection from the station or police action.
Electric District Line service
Because the Metra Electric Line passes under McCormick Place, site of the NATO Summit, riders will be subject to more extensive screening and bag checks. Riders should arrive at their departing station about 15 minutes before departure to allow time for the boarding process. Passengers should note that some station entrances may be closed.
On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the South Water Street entrance to Millennium will be closed.
Saturday, Metra will operate normal inbound and outbound service on the main line and both branches but won’t stop at 47th Street (Kenwood), 27th Street, McCormick Place, 18th Street and 11th Street/Museum Campus.
Sunday: Metra will operate normal inbound and outbound service on the main line and South Chicago branch but won’t make stops at 47th Street (Kenwood), 27th Street, McCormick Place, 18th Street and 11th Street/Museum Campus. (The Blue Island branch does not operate on Sundays.)
Monday: Metra will operate all inbound trains (except Blue Island trains) scheduled to arrive downtown until noon, with the following stations closed: 111th Street (Pullman), 107th Street, 103rd Street (Rosemoor), 91st Street (Chesterfield), 87th Street (Woodruff), 83rd Street (Avalon Park), 79th Street (Chatham), 75th Street (Grand Crossing), 63rd Street, 47th Street (Kenwood), 27th Street, McCormick Place, 18th Street and Museum Campus/11th Street on the main line; and 87th Street, Cheltenham (79th Street), Windsor Park and Bryn Mawr on the South Chicago branch. Trains will not operate on the Blue Island branch. The inbound main line trains scheduled to arrive at Millennium between 12:57 p.m. and 6:46 p.m. will not operate.
Metra will operate normal service all day on its outbound trains, except at closed stations and on the Blue Island branch.
For updates and more information, visit www.metrarail.com.
Updated: June 29, 2012 8:24AM
For Southlanders who hop aboard a Metra train Saturday, Sunday or Monday, there will be no morning coffee allowed, nor sack lunches, luggage or backpacks.
In some cases, that means no smiles, either.
“With no cup of coffee, I will not be a happy camper,” Donna Blackburn, of Frankfort, said as she waited to board a 6:36 a.m. train from Tinley Park’s 80th Avenue Metra station to Chicago earlier this week.
Those are just some of the restrictions being imposed on all Metra commuters Saturday through Monday during the NATO Summit in Chicago.
Riders — just like airport travelers — also might want to arrive earlier than usual because they may be subject to bag checks and other security screening. And once they reach downtown, they may have to take alternate paths to work or not journey as far if they go out for lunch.
Some workplaces are passing along such tips to workers, while others are shutting their offices for a day or two or letting folks work from home.
Elizabeth Hester, of Glenwood, won’t have that luxury, but said she will endure.
“I’ll do whatever I can. If I’m late, I’m late,” she said while waiting for her Metra train in Homewood. “I don’t like the fact that I can’t bring my lunch. (Metra) should have given us lunch vouchers.”
Some commuters at the 80th Avenue station said the restrictions are “ridiculous” or “a little silly.” Others disagreed.
“I’d rather they have too many restrictions that none at all,” said Julie McEnerney, of Tinley Park.
“It will be weird,” Frankfort resident Mark Jongsma said as he sipped coffee and clutched his lunch bag. “But it’s a good idea. There’s plenty of nuts out there.”
Many wondered how Metra will enforce all the rules.
Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile said all riders on the Electric District Line will be screened, since that train goes under McCormick Place, where the summit will be held. There will be “less formal” screening on the other lines, with law enforcement personnel on the platform and on board — some identifiable, some not, she said.
“Everyone could be subject to search,” Reile said. “It’s just one (week)day. If you follow the guidelines, your trip will be as normal as possible.”
Some downtown businesses have urged their employees to take extra precautions.
Dave Pecka, of Tinley Park, who works at a bank building adjacent to Union Station, said his firm has been giving employees “helpful hints” on handling the NATO event.
“We were told not to wear a suit and tie so that we blend in with the crowd,” he said.
Some workers at a downtown law firm were told that if they dressed up, they might be targeted by feces-throwing protestors.
Unable to brown-bag it, Karl Kosary was told to “stay close to the office” when he goes out for lunch. An information technician, he’s more concerned about not being able to tote his backpack, which contains his laptop and everything he needs to do his job. He is a bit worried about getting to and from his job at Wacker Avenue and Randolph Street and thinks information coming from Metra was “vague.”
“I think they are overreacting, especially on the Rock Island (line),” Kosary said. “I don’t see there being a lot of protestors here. We’re quite a ways from the ‘red zone,’ ” where large protests are expected.
To help secure the entire downtown area, Metra commuters will be allowed to carry only one bag, and it cannot exceed 15 inches by 15 inches by 4 inches deep — the most popular size laptop bag, according to Reile.
Some are wondering whether their laptop cases will meet those specs.
“I don’t plan on changing anything,” said Jessica Weiss, of Tinley Park, who works as a chef at a club that will house NATO attendees and said she has no choice but to go to work.
“I will have my headphones and my coffee. I don’t function without it,” she said.
Myron Murff, of Homewood, wondered whether riders would be arrested for carrying drinks or oversized bags onto the train.
“There’s really not enough detailed information,” he said. “I also don’t see what we gain as residents of this area, the city of Chicago included, from inviting these people to have this meeting here. It just seems like it’s more hassle than it’s worth.”
Tam Gibson, of Homewood, felt the same way, especially about being forced to buy drinks and lunch at downtown prices.
“I get it,” she said of the security measures. “It’s just causing a lot of congestion, a lot of concern — as far as us being consumers and trying to save money. They just raised Metra fares. It’s like they’re not sensitive to our economy, No. 1, and No. 2, it affects us as commuters.”
Day off, for some
Some Southlanders will be off Friday and/or Monday — some with pay, some without. Several, like Marianne Murphy, will be working from home.
Murphy, an engineer, said her firm has been preparing for months, solving connectivity issues to make sure employees can work remotely.
“The only downside is we can’t schedule any meetings. Gee, what a loss,” she said. “I think the restrictions and precautions are reasonable. You plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
Renee Buerger, a student from Orland Park, made alternate plans to avoid commuting. She has no classes Monday and planned to stay at the Lincoln Park residence of a classmate on Thursday and Friday.
“We’ll make the best of it,” she said.
For the most part, commuters were not overly concerned about the days to come. But Rolando Garcia, of Romeoville, was a bit worried about the potential for riots. He was just hired by a private security firm.
“This is my first big gig,” he said, anticipating 12-hour days for the next several days.
Alex Schusler, of Orland Park, said he will work from home Friday and Monday. And then ...
“It will be interesting to see what happens,” he said. “I hope my building is still there on Tuesday.”
Contributing: Nikki Arseneau