Customers of the Metra Electric Line will receive a 15 percent discount on their April Monthly Pass as compensation for two weeks of recent service disruptions – including all or part of six days without any service – caused by unusually severe weather conditions and damage from the derailment of a CN train.
“We are taking this rare step of providing discounts because of the unusual severity and length of the service disruption on the Metra Electric Line,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “We know our Metra Electric Line customers have endured a rocky two weeks, and we want to thank them for their patience and understanding as we worked to restore normal service.”
The discount will apply only to paper Monthly Passes sold by a ticket agent at Millennium Station (including the South Water entrance) and Van Buren Street Station or through Transit Benefits providers. The discounted Monthly Pass will be valid only on the Metra Electric Line that month. That means customers who normally use the Ventra App to purchase a mobile Monthly Pass will have to switch to a paper pass in April in order to receive the discount. (We are not able to create a pass exclusive to the Metra Electric Line, with a separate price, within the Ventra App.)
The discounted April Monthly Passes will be stamped by ticket agents to indicate they will only be valid on the Metra Electric Line. Additional ticket agents will be on hand during the April pass purchase period.
Metra will work with Transit Benefit providers to make sure Metra Electric customers receive the discounted price. Transit Benefit participants who ride the Metra Electric Line and receive their Monthly Passes in the mail will receive passes stamped to be valid only on the Metra Electric Line. Transit Benefit participants who ride the Metra Electric Line and load their benefits onto a debit card in order to purchase mobile Monthly Passes on the Ventra App will need to use their debit card to purchase a paper pass from an agent at Millennium or Van Buren in order to receive the discount. Participants who load their transit benefits into a Ventra account will need to call Metra Passenger Services at 312-322-6777.
From Jan. 30 to Feb. 12, the line was shut down for all or part of six days, and service operated on a reduced schedule for five additional days. There were only three days in that stretch with regular service, and two of those were on the weekend. Those extraordinary disruptions were due to three significant events:
- On the morning of Jan. 30, the coldest temperatures since 1985 – two years before Metra bought the Electric Line in 1987 – hit the Chicago area. The unusually severe cold caused the overhead wires that power the line to contract, pulling the wires taut and raising them higher than designed. Metra tried to operate service, but the pantographs on the first few trains, rising high to meet the taut wires, caused damage to the wires, wire supports and other structures at several locations.
- On the evening of Jan 30, a CN freight train, operating on tracks that parallel Metra’s near Harvey, derailed and crashed into a tower that supports the overhead power structure. The tower was toppled, and when it fell, it damaged more than two miles of wires and wire supports and knocked out two electrical substations. The continued severe cold and extent of damage caused by the cold and the derailment significantly slowed recovery efforts, as fuel used to power maintenance equipment gelled and workers had to limit their time exposed to the elements. Metra was able to reopen one of the two tracks in Harvey by the following Monday, but service was limited and sometimes delayed by the need to operate through a single-track bottleneck for a week.
- On the evening of Feb. 11 – the day service was finally fully restored following the derailment and cold – an ice storm coated portions of the area in a half-inch glaze of ice – the thickest in 71 years. The ice coated 120 miles of wires and rails, and Metra Electric trains, unable to draw power from the wires and unable to gain traction on the rails, were stopped in their tracks that night. The speed and severity of the freeze stymied Metra’s usual ice-fighting methods, and service had to be suspended through most of Feb. 12 until the ice melted or was dislodged from the wires and the system was inspected and repaired.
Metra rarely provides refunds or discounts for service disruptions, but there is precedent for a severe and prolonged disruption. When a fire destroyed a Metra Electric Line bridge in 2003 and shut down service for eight days, Metra provided prorated refunds to Monthly Pass holders on the line.