Metra 'operating normally' this morning after 60K+ stranded in Union Station

Metra service was back to normal during its Friday morning commute after extensive delays at Union Station left thousands stranded for hours during Thursday evening’s rush-hour commute.

“So far it’s operating normally this morning,” said Metra spokesman Tom Miller. “The signal system has been restored and things are on schedule.”

As of 7 a.m., no delays were reported on the six Metra lines that traverse the station: the BNSF, Milwaukee District West and North, Heritage Corridor, North Central Service and SouthWest Service lines.

The Amtrak signal problems that halted and delayed both Amtrak and Metra trains at the downtown train station were fixed by late Thursday as crews worked all day to address the issue, according to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Magliari said trouble started about 8:30 a.m. when the automated system that connects the control center to the track switches and signals went down. To keep at least some trains moving while efforts were made to fix the system, crews were manually operating the signals and track switches.

About 61,000 passengers travel on six Metra lines that go through Union Station, according to Metra spokesman Michael Gillis. About 86 Metra trains leave the station after 3:30 p.m., most of which are during the rush-hour commute. All saw delays of several hours. 

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BNSF trains made all stops from Union station to Downers Grove Main Street or all stops between Downers Grove Main Street and Aurora, but trains were very overcrowded, Metra said. Riders also saw “extensive delays” on the Heritage Corridor, Southwest Service, North Central Service and Milwaukee District North and West lines throughout the evening rush.

Ride-hailing apps were hardly a reprieve for the stranded passengers. Surge pricing — which goes into effect when there’s high demand for rides — caused prices to skyrocket for rides to the suburbs. A trip from Union Station to the Naperville Metra station — which usually would cost about $50 — shot up to $126 Thursday evening.

Despite the ride-hailing prices, Metra advised riders who needed to be home at a specific time to think about finding an alternate form of transportation. Those options included Metra lines out of Ogilvie Station — which was not affected by the outage — that stopped by neighboring suburbs.

Amtrak planned to have additional crews on stand-by on Friday in case of more problems, Magliari said. The cause of the system failure was being investigated.