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kitty in bowl

colleenabean in chicago_el

Metra vs. CTA

Two consecutive days last week, I took Metra to the suburbs after work. The difference between Metra and the CTA during rush hour is staggering. Union Station was just like a bad dream, where you're running late and you are panicking but nothing you do seems to help. The line to get a ticket was about 75 people long. I tried to find an ATM so I could buy my ticket on the train (not knowing if I even could) but somehow ended up in Amtrak land.

I finally got some cash and began looking for my train's platform and the amount of people around me tripled. Commuters on the CTA walk briskly but they aren't crazed. They move with purpose but not in a maddened state of panic like the Metra commuters do. Everyone is funneling themselves into different doorways with complete disregard for everyone else around. They have a train to catch dammit, they do this everyday, get the fuck out of the way.

I finally got down to the train and was surprised that the vestibule was packed with standing passengers. Like the robot I am, I shoved my way on. I got many dirty looks. Oops. This isn't CTA where we all tolerate standing uncomfortably close to one another for a few stops. This is a long commute and I broke a rule of suburban commuting. I then noticed that while everyone's jammed in the vestibule, there's no one standing in the isles between the seated passengers. So I shoved my way into the isle and stood there the whole ride, getting stared at by the seated passengers. There was plenty of room for the people coming by, even the train conductor didn't care that I was standing there. I stood staring at the jam packed vestibule thinking they must be poisoning the suburban water supply with irrational behavior juice and I better not drink any when I'm out there.

I returned to the CTA commute the next day and was so happy to cram and be crammed, to be in a hurry but not feel as if a trampling is imminent and to share a speeding metal car with people who know you gotta fill up every little space and just say 'scuse me when you want out. The whole thing made me love the CTA a little bit more. A lot more.


One thing that don't versus each other out on is the uncomfortable seats. But, both get us where we need to go.
I always feel like I'm going to slip out of Metra's seats... Much smoother, more comfortable ride, much, MUCH less comfortable seats.
For me, being 20 miles from Chicago, Metra is the only way to really fly into the city without the slow commute that is the red line south of Howard. I take the el and buses when I'm in the city, though. :) It takes me 30 minutes to get into the city on Metra versus probably an hour and half on the el.


unless you just miss your metra train, in which case it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours (or more) more...
Yep. I always make sure I'm there at least 10 minutes early just for that reason, it sucks royally if you miss it.


true time

which makes it really 40 minutes to downtown. I can never understand why people don't include wait time in their travel decisions.
Metra is great for the suburbanites, but I agree with you on the attitude of Metra vs. CTA passengers.
I ride Metra every day and have twice ridden the el. All things considered, I have to agree with you.
Eh, you get used to one, the other freaks you out. I take Metra from Evanston if I'm not biking in. I get annoyed/freaked by the CTA atmosphere. Of course, I take the train from ogilvie, which might be a bit calmer than Union. Maybe the northern suburbanites are different from the west/southwest suburbanites, too. ;)
i go to union station all the time (i'm also an amtrak rider), and have only been to olgilvie once.

it was almost like a holy experience. totally different, quiet, clean, amazing. i could hardly believe it.

all said and done though, i live less than a block from the el, and i love public transportation.
Very interesting and good to know. I have never taken a train from Union and will prepare myself if I need to.

I live a half block from the El and I walk half of a mile to take the Metra. Sometimes you just have a preference...

I have to give props on the icon. Pearls Before Swine rocks my proverbial socks off.
I also live in Evanston, and I usually do the oposite. The Evanston trains run a hell of a lot more frequently than the North Line, and (as I've discovered most people don't realize) that its often much (and I'm really stressing much in this instance) faster to ride on in via the 'L'. Plus CTA puts you in the heart of downtown where as Metra takes you off to the west. I find that the only reason I really choose to ride the North Line is in situations where I need to make a connection to the West and I know I will always be able to make it (unusual incidents notwithstanding).

And yes, the Northwestern Station (Ogilvie) is a lot calmer than Union. But then consider this: 6 Metra lines and Amtrack service at Union, where as there are only three lines coming into the Northwestern Station.

Funny thing is, I must say that I find myself more freaked by the Metra atmosphere if anything. Oh well... Different strokes for different folks.
I like both the Metra -and- the CTA.

I've only once gone out of Union Station on Metra, though... it's always either Northwestern Station or Randolph St. for me.
Am I the only person who still refers to "Ogilvie" as "Northwestern Station"?
Nope. You're the third one in here. Look above. I do and so does daland.
I do now. When I first moved into the city, I got in a cab and said I needed to get to Ogilvie Train Station. The cabbie looked at me like I was crazy. When I said it's at Madison and Canal, he said, "Oh! Northwest Station." That's what I've called it ever since.