21.6.08

CRUSH LOADINGS. The Naperville Zephyrs are standing room only.

It begins with a trickle, when the 8:06 a.m. Metra express rolls out of Aurora half-full—nine cars headed for Union Station.

Minutes later, at a stop on Naperville's edge, the gates open and bleary commuters fill more than three-quarters of the train. Minutes after that it's a flood, with hundreds of travelers competing for any open seat to read the newspaper, listen to an iPod and, most important, get to work.The unluckiest are left applying makeup in the vestibule, surfing the aisles or sitting on the stairs to the second level with their cups of steaming coffee.

Sometimes passengers will sit on the steps or stand rather than ask a seat-hogging passenger to move over. Recent ridership increases have, however, made standing-room-only less exceptional than it once was. This graphic probably does not capture a long-delayed reaction to the abandonment of the North Shore Line: rather, it reflects ongoing construction on Illinois 53 and Interstates 290 (the Tri-State) and 94 (the Edens Expressway), all to provide new surfaces for overweight trucks to wreck.

A related article reports that Metra bought back, from Virginia Railway Express, five coaches it had once sold as surplus to its requirements. The legislature's failure to pass a capital spending bill hampers the agency's ability to purchase additional new coaches (the Virginia agency likely encountering capacity constraints of its own.)

Yes, that's the same capital spending bill that's required before our Stevens Building and Cole Hall are renovated.

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