15 year Metra conductor Public proof...tickets, punch and some brass http://imgur.com/ORMC4n0

Comments: 246 • Responses: 92  • Date: 

Chavran9 karma

Do you ever question if you are actually in an endless loop in the source code?

MetraConductor5 karma

When I first hired out and I was stuck working night/weekend trains during the Taste of Chicago, yeah, some endless looping going on there. Puke in the aisle's and lavatories every night.

TheMagicFlight2 karma

What about Lollapalooza? If I remember the last time I took the Metra after Lolla they had locked all of the bathrooms.

MetraConductor5 karma

I would never do that. Whoever did that, did that unilaterally and not under a METRA directive.

philathea809 karma

How do you get a job as a conductor? What level of education is required?

MetraConductor11 karma

Go to Metra's website or one of the freight railroads that operate Metra's trains. Burlington/Sante Fe or Union Pacific. I am a high school grad and I will make around 100k this year...

ironik866 karma

How in the hell....100k..

MetraConductor3 karma

It is what it is. A good union, COLA raises.

DayCMeTrollin5 karma

100k?!?! That's more than most government lawyers and teachers make. Talk about a well connected union.

Griffun2 karma

Or he works a shit ton of hours.

MetraConductor3 karma

a little of both...

DayCMeTrollin3 karma

There's no way a government lawyer, teacher or engineer should be valued at often 50% of a Metra conductor. This is public sector unions run amok at its finest.

MetraConductor2 karma

Should I take a voluntary cut in pay?

ImagineAllTheKarma1 karma

As an illinois resident can i blame you for the fact our state ran out of money?

MetraConductor2 karma

Yes. Blame me. The responsibility lands squarely on my shoulders...dope.

indigofireflies7 karma

If someone gets on and can't pay for a ticket what do you do?

MetraConductor23 karma

It depends. Do they look like they are going to work or is it the junkie wanting to get off at an inner city stop for their fix? Job guy stays, junkie goes. You really develop a feel for people and while I may not always guess right, I feel most of the time I am. Hey, people forget their passes, wallets, cash. What positive do I gain by tossing some poor guy off the train and making him late for work? Nothing.

Loungelo7 karma

A train conductor kicked me off during morning rush hour when I forgot my wallet. I felt so embarrassed I tried to explain myself in a low voice, but he made a scene out of it. As I was packing up my things to get off on the next stop, a random person covered my fare for me. It restored my faith in humanity, but left me annoyed with the conductor. Since then I've been wanting to ask the conductor to punch my 10 ride twice so that he can be more forgiving to me next time it happens.

MetraConductor8 karma

Sorry that happened. There are assholes everywhere including some conductors. You did everything I ask a person to do in such circumstances. You kept a low profile and kept it between the two of you but he was looking for a power trip. Save that extra 10 ride punch...

yourzero2 karma

What would you do in this situation (if a rider forget his wallet)?

MetraConductor3 karma

If I knew them to be a regular rider and I would seem them again, I'd square it up next time I saw them and let them get to work.

johnwayne15 karma

What is the craziest thing you have seen as a conductor?

MetraConductor11 karma

Wow...I've seen blow jobs, brutal fist fights, what I think was 2 seconds before sexual intercourse, chicks making out on a dare, July 4th firework night, Blackhawks post Cup rally (that was completely nuts) are the more memorable things.

yourzero3 karma

Wow! I rode the Metra daily to my job downtown for a year or so, and I never saw any of that.

I guess I was in the boring car.

MetraConductor9 karma

Again off peak and weekend summer trains are a different animal then your rush hour trains. Think about it...

greeny742 karma

rode the train into the city and out for the Blackhawks rally; can confirm the rowdiness. I may have partially been one of the loud ones (I was pretty drunk, so sorry.)

MetraConductor3 karma

That's ok. My train into and out of the city was cool. And I am a huge Hawks fan!

SuperUge4 karma

I ride MDW and always wonder how do you guys know whos tickets have been punched or when new people get onto a different train how do you know?

MetraConductor10 karma

Great question. For me, it was taking mental photographs of my assigned coach(es) before each new stop and then filling in the blanks (prior empty seats) with fresh faces. After a while you get really good at at. Of course, if we aren't sure we just ask the person... :)

SuperUge2 karma

Well thats some talent. So many people on and off. If I was a conductor alot of people would ride free because I'd never remember..

MetraConductor2 karma

You'd be surprised at the untapped talents that lie right under the surface. :)

dresdenologist4 karma

Do you have any friends or heard any stories from people working the CTA? I don't take Metra that often as I'm in the city proper and drive to get everywhere else, but I see plenty of screwed up on the CTA these days. Keep up the good work!

MetraConductor13 karma

I really don't know any CTA employees. I occasionally ride the L and am rather bemused at the whole operation. It's like watching a 5 year old throw a bunch of shit in a mixing bowl and somehow he made a decent looking cake that taste's like shit.

ichooseyoueevee3 karma

oh man if you do know of any, i would really like a L conductor AMA.

MetraConductor2 karma

Me too!

nitsuj214 karma

Might be a touchy subject, but have you ever been conducting while someone decided to step on the tracks? I always remember hearing about this happening 2-3 times a year and cannot imagine how horrible that would be

MetraConductor13 karma

I have been working a train three times where a pedestrian was struck and killed by my train. All three were fatalities with one being an accident and the other two suicides. Talking with other conductors, the suicides are what they are and there is no use hammering yourself over it. The accident was the worst because the kid thought he was in the clear but wasn't. All three were fucked up messy and it is a lot worse for the engineer because he is behind the controls and he has front row seats of the carnage.

gtautumn2 karma

My father, who worked closely with Amtrak downstate, once told me that its far more rare for a conductor to have not at some point in time been involved in a pedestrian fatality. Would you say this is accurate?

MetraConductor6 karma

Absolutely. I have been involved in three of them. I will say that Operation Lifesaver has really been stressing their point the last few years and without any official data to go by, I'd say pedestrian incidents are way down the past few years. To sum it up, it is rare to find a conductor with a decent amount of seniority to NOT have had a pedestrian incident.

ImagineAllTheKarma1 karma

Were any of these suicides in the lake forrest area? 2 or 3 highschoolers killed themselves via train in the last couple of years and i was wondering if you were on that train

MetraConductor1 karma

I was not.

kingshav1 karma

I'm just curious of if you were on the MDW line last year when someone got hit right before Bensenville (inbound). I was on that train and I have always wondered if it was an accident or suicide.

MetraConductor1 karma

I was not on that train. I know the incident but suicides are rarely reported as part of the story.

MrDowntown4 karma

The conductor is back in one of the train cars. It's the engineer who may need counseling, having seen the person step in front of the locomotive.

MetraConductor5 karma

Agreed. The engineer doesnt care if the guy was a suicide or not. He just watched a guy die.

Zwomann3 karma

I'm a single 23 year old female and want to do what you do, where do I start?

MetraConductor3 karma

go to www.metra.com and find the careers link or go to a freight railroad that operates Metra trains like BNSF or UP. If you have a resume send it to Metra for the hell of it. ATTN: Metra Human Resources 547 W Jackson Blvd Chicago, IL 60661

myroller3 karma

I never really understood how flag stops are supposed to work. What is your advice on what to do if you want to get off at a flag stop? Get on at a flag stop?

I saw one web site that says you are supposed to hold a burning newspaper if you want the train to stop at a flag stop? I find that hard to believe.


MetraConductor3 karma

I wouldn't wave a burning newspaper because if I was the engineer and saw someone waving a burning newspaper I'd be like "fuck this" and blow right past you. I would carry a red bandana perhaps and wave that, make your self visible as much as possible without looking like a crazy person. On the train just find a conductor and tell him you wish to exit at wherever.

ggolemg3 karma

What is, in your opinion, the maximum people would be willing to pay for a single fare?

MetraConductor9 karma

It depends. On a weekend the cost now is 7 dollars for unlimited Sat/Sun travel. That is outrageously low. When you consider gas and parking in downtown Chicago, double that and it is still a bargain. I think the monthly fares as they sit now are fair.

wpm4 karma

I remember when they raised fares last year (or was it in February of this year? I can't remember) and everyone was raising a stink, but in reality Metra's fares are lower than most metro areas and hadn't really been keeping up with inflation anyways. A full month from Zone E to Union costs as much as about two weeks of parking all day in the city, ignoring gas. It's an amazing deal.

MetraConductor5 karma

You are correct. For YEARS Pagano and company kept fares silly low and with enormous consequences. When the huge fare hike was implemented people freaked but like you said, it is in line ( and probably lower than most) with the rest of the country.

umenthum3 karma

Can you give a better definition of 'train conductor', like who's driving, who's checking tickets, how many employees does it take to run the train? Also, a few weeks ago I was riding out on the bnsf line, and we had a Railroad policeman or something like that instead of a conductor walking up and down the train (packed weekend evening train), he didn't seem to be checking tickets. Thanks.

MetraConductor4 karma

The operator of the train is the engineer. The person in charge of the train, or the boss, is called a conductor. Traditionally the conductor's assistant is called a brakeman but Metra prefers "Assistant Conductor"-not exactly romantics over there on Jackson. Additional collectors are called just that. Collectors. All uniformed "ticket punchers" fall into a group known as trainmen. Chew on this for a while. All conductors are trainmen but not all trainmen are conductors... :)

MetraConductor3 karma

I am headed back to work! This is fun. I will answer everyone's questions/comments when I get home tonight! MC

BittyDinosaurNoises3 karma

I ride UP-N every morning! OK, enough bonding.

Given technology has advanced to the point of small businesses using Square and Chipotle taking credit card orders in line, how long until Metra catches up and offers a credit card option on the train? The ticket hole punch thing is so antiquated and the biggest pain in the ass when I don't have cash (and subsequently dip into my laundry quarters to pay my fare.)

MetraConductor2 karma

I for one appreciate your quarters because I run out of those first but seriously. Soon, I think. I would think within 2 to 3 years we will be swiping your credit card aboard the train. I do love my ticket punch though...

Waiting_in_a_Eye_Que2 karma

Firstly, thanks for doing what you do! My question is what does it take for you to kick someone off your train?

MetraConductor9 karma

"Fuck You" seems to do it.

[deleted]2 karma


MetraConductor13 karma

NO! That is a huge FRA fine and I have nothing to say to anyone for 25,000 dollars and the cost of losing my job. So, no, I don't.

blacknight2 karma

What is your opinion of the recent Metra scandal and what do you think will be the fallout for employees such as yourself?

MetraConductor5 karma

The Metra board is a joke. Political appointed board members with ZERO railroad experience leads to...well...what we have going on now. If METRA was a publicly traded corporation where board members had to actually answer to somebody, it would be a whole new ball game. As far as fallout for us little guys? I don't see much if any. Sure, some passengers crack wise or try to lump us in with the corruption but it doesn't bother me. Thick skin in this job is a must.

blacknight3 karma

Thank you for the response. I think you guys do great work, and are super important to the economy of the region.

MetraConductor2 karma

Thanks! I really do enjoy my job and have met some great people along the way. (see what I did there?)

planification1 karma

Well, Metra formed after private railroad companies went bankrupt in the 70s. Doesn't seem like anyone knows how to run a railroad.

MetraConductor2 karma

Aside from the Rock Island and Milwaukee Road going belly up, the freight lines wanted out of the passenger service because it wasn't as profitable as freight.

MetraConductor1 karma

I'm sure it's not easy but BNSF, UP, NS, CSXT CN and CP sure seem to have it down.

NickSparks942 karma

I'm sure you're relatively busy at most times since Chicago is such a busy city anyway, but how do major events such as Lollapalooza or sport playoff games affect your job? What are things I can do as a passenger that often attends events like this to make your job easier?

MetraConductor7 karma

DONT drink like there is no tomorrow! Please! That is the worst. Having 2 frat boys get on the train with a case of Natty Light and down it by the time we get to Chicago is the worst because there is a chance you will see them later. METRA is the best way to get to the city. I understand that. But act like you have been out in public before for Christ's sake. And I will tell you...the busier a train is, the shorter the ride.

timothyLGND2 karma

what have you seen change the most over your time working this job?

MetraConductor7 karma

Ticket collecting. It used to be a snap. Now it seems half the people do not hear you enter a car greeting them with a "TICKETS, PLEASE!" because they have their ear buds in or are wrapped up in a text or their ipads or laptops. This truly has been the biggest change I have seen. Technology is no friend of the conductor...lol.

NOAHA2022 karma

Do you think there should be more or less laws against feeding pigeons and squirrels on the platforms?

Can the train go backwards? I mean if you don't stop soon enough and go past the platform, can you bring it back?

Do you think that the cars should be separated (like they are here in chicago), or should there be one big car, like on the London tube?

MetraConductor2 karma

Metra trains operate on a "push/pull" system. The Engine either pushes or pulls the train, so yes, they can back up if they miss a platform. One long car? Sounds cool. Squirrels and pigeons gotta eat too!

MrDowntown2 karma

You're talking about L trains, I think. Either way, there are safety implications to backing up, and it's seldom done. Chicago had a terrible wreck in the 1970s because an IC train overshot the platform, then backed up. However, the signal system now showed the block was clear, so the following train rear-ended the first.

MetraConductor2 karma

You can easily back up a Metra train by simply getting permission from the dispatcher who knows whether or not there is a train behind you. As long as the dispatcher gives you a permission on the reverse and a crew member is protecting the movement, it's all good.

North_Avenue2 karma

is working one line preferable to working another, or is it all the same for you guys? Like do people fight to get on the UP-NW train vs the MD-W or something?

MetraConductor4 karma

Good question! From what I hear talking to some guys at UP, the west line is fantastic but guys on the west line and guys on the north line are on different rosters so they are stuck where they are at. At the end of the day it's all about where you live. Say I live in Joliet. If the Milwaukee District North line was the shit, would I drive all the way to Fox Lake to go to work or would I drive 5 minutes to Joliet station? Most jobs start at the outlying point...FYI.

North_Avenue1 karma

interesting! what roster would you be on if you lived in the city? or would they just make you drive out to the route's terminus for your shift?

MetraConductor2 karma

Actually I would love to hold a job that starts and ends in the city but not a whole lot of those on my line and the one's that do start their pay less than the one's that don't. It's all about the Benjamins still...

PointXIV2 karma

You ever been on the BNSF? I usually ride RI, but had to leave from Naperville once. The whole armed guard thing freaked me out a bit.

MetraConductor2 karma

During festivals and what not it is not uncommon to see a armed police officer on the train. I welcome them with open arms. You should too.

PointXIV1 karma

I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I was just surprised. I've never taken RI during a festival, since I live in Chicago, but there's normally no guards on the train. I was surprised there was on BNSF.

MetraConductor1 karma

It's no secret here that the freight railroads that operate Metra trains is where one in my profession would rather work. Those places are run by railroaders and they just seem to get it. True story: A good friend of mine works as a Metra conductor for Union Pacific and I met him for lunch at Ogilvie on my layover. As I was walking towards him he was talking to a guy I didn't recognize and they were both laughing their asses off, doubled over. The conversation ended up a handshake/bro hug combo and when I asked him who the guy was he said "My boss." Fucking kidding me???

myroller2 karma

Concerning the "M" and "F" stamps on monthly tickets: Do you have any guidelines or procedures on how to deal with people who are (for lack of a better term) gender-variant? For example, a man in drag or a woman with very short hair in a men's suit? Or just a person going through a sex-change? Have you ever accidentally screwed up?

MetraConductor9 karma

Honestly, if I can't tell with a decent amount of certainty what their gender is and they have a pass, good enough for me. If someone wants to go to those lengths to get a free ride, have at it. When I was newer we had a man who dressed like a woman but was clearly a man but presented themselves as a woman. He/she had a female monthly. It was all good.

Quick28222 karma

Why does Metra even mark the ticket in the first place? If it's to make it so you can't let you wife borrow your pass, then that's ridiculous.

MetraConductor5 karma

Short of putting your picture on it the male/female marking is the next best thing.

yoooplait2 karma

Do you think it was a good idea to get rid of the bar cars? I miss them!

MetraConductor1 karma

I don't think it affects riders either way because you can grab a tall boy in the depot for your ride. They were kinda cool though...

ctalover32 karma

Hello, UP-N rider here. I am a railfanner and I must ask a question. Are Conductors assigned to just one line or one part of a line (UP, MD etc.)? It's kind of like that in the NYC Subway. Conductors can operate on numbered trains lines and only on numbered trains and vice versa with the lettered train lines. BTW my mother takes the UP-N almost every workday.

MetraConductor1 karma

The UP lines, as I understand it are broken down into two seniority rosters. The UP-W stands alone and the UP-N and NW are one big roster meaning UP-W guys and girls can only work on the West line and UP-N and NW have to stick to their lines.

ctalover31 karma

Hmm... that's very interesting, thanks for taking the time out of your day to answer.

MetraConductor1 karma

You are welcome!

Loungelo2 karma

Thanks for doing this IamA. It's been extremely informative! How often do people pass out on the last train heading away from the city and miss their stop? Are cabs usually waiting out there for them? Ever see it happen to the same guy? I think it must be somewhat funny especially if they an earlier zone and completely drunk.

Also, have there been any reported issues with people stealing 10-rides or monthly passes? I assume the Metra riding community consists mostly of upstanding citizens so I try not to closely guard my ticket, but was just wondering if its a threat. Thanks again.

MetraConductor3 karma

The passing out drunk and ending up at the last stop with no returning trains running is a common occurrence or at least it was when I worked the Friday/Saturday evening trains. Cabbies have figured this out as well and usually lurk about at the last stop, late at night. I will advise that if you are a loud, boisterous drunk who is making everyone's trip miserable and you end up passing out with a "D" ticket in the clip and the train is destined for the "K" zone, chances are no one is going to do you a favor and wake you up. Occasionally someone will report that their monthly/10 ride was taken out of the clip. Unfortunately, society is filled with dregs so I advise if you are tired, place that monthly back in your wallet or purse after you displayed it to the conductor.

Loungelo1 karma

Thanks again! Last question, do you prefer to say "upper deck", "up top", "tickets upstairs" or another variation?

MetraConductor1 karma

Up top.

spencerjouellette2 karma

What's the most stressful situation you have ever found yourself in while in the conductor's seat, if any?

MetraConductor2 karma

The blizzard of 2011 was no fun. Switches froze up and delays were approaching four hours with a train load of very angry and impatient people who naturally assumed it was all my fault. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. :)

Sexy_Sasquatch1 karma

Is there a way to get a discount on a 10-pass. I use them a lot, and they're so expensive

MetraConductor3 karma

We used to have a 10 ride discount where you would actually pay the equivalent of nine rides and get the 10th one free. The ex-CEO did away with that so a ten ride ticket costs the same as 10 one ways. The upside is that it is more convenient to carry one ticket instead of 10 plus you can share a 10 ride with other people in your traveling party.

auto-didact1 karma

Then I will assume you are the "cool looking" conductor with the soul patch that does the route from Og through Ravenswood and then Rogers Park and into Wisc.

You let me ride free once when I forgot my monthly pass in my other backpack.

MetraConductor1 karma

I'm only that guy in spirit. Most of us are good guys who understand shit happens.

Zomg_A_Chicken1 karma

Have you seen the movie, Unstoppable?

MetraConductor3 karma

Yes. Good movie.

doodlewhoppers1 karma

WTF does "late arriving equipment REALLY mean"????

MetraConductor1 karma

It means that train "A" from Chicago is headed to Aurora. It then turns around at Aurora and goes back to the city. Let's say that train A was 40 minutes late getting to Aurora and now, as train "B" it is late getting to Chicago...because of the delay getting to Aurora. It's also the default automated announcement for your garden variety delays. Don't get me started on those... :)

rearden-steel1 karma

How do you know whether a monthly pass is actually a color copy?

MetraConductor4 karma

Well they have color changing characteristics on them but in all honesty, during a harried rush hour "sweep" of ticket collecting, we take YOUR word for it that you are an upstanding member of society who would NEVER use a counterfeit ticket. And remember, anything METRA train related ultimately ends up as a federal whatever so being caught with a counterfeit ticket could land someone's ass in hot water.

rearden-steel1 karma

Yeah, I notice that some of the letter are foil, which would be hard to counterfeit, but that may be hard to tell from far away. Of course, I always buy my monthly (actually buy them pre-tax through work), but as I see the conductor checking tickets, particularly for upper level customers like me, where you don't see it very close, I wonder if anyone is cheating the system.

MetraConductor1 karma

Take a look at your monthly. See on the upper corners "M" and "F"? When you buy one it is stamped either, depending on your sex. Male or female. Aside from it being the correct month and color, that's what I look at. LOT'S of people borrow their monthly to their spouse, not knowing that it is stamped for a male or female.

Quick28222 karma

But, who cares? I purchased a ticket for unlimited rides, for one person, to take Metra. Why does it matter if I give it to a female member of my family to use for a day? I never understood that.

MetraConductor2 karma

You purchased it for unlimited rides for you. Not for anyone else. With your reasoning, one person on a coach could have a monthly and just pass it along to the next person and so on and so on. We'd be out of business in no time.

aensues1 karma

Thanks for explaining that! As a man, I always thought the M just stood for "monthly."

MetraConductor1 karma

You bet.

lunatyck1 karma

Would you ever question someone with a discounted ticket? For example, I can assume someone can get their hands on a discounted ticket from someone else (say a high schooler) and use it. Or do you only care that it is a valid ticket?

MetraConductor1 karma

My favorite pastime is questioning an adult with a reduced fare ticket (obvious age (seniors) physical and mental handicaps aside). The legit ones are military. Lots of people out there have a kid buy them a reduced 10 ride and sooner or later they will get busted.

lunatyck3 karma

If they get busted, what are the consequences?

MetraConductor3 karma

Shaming them publicly in front of other riders and then confiscating the ticket and then making them but a correct one is my method...

greeny741 karma

I am a Chicagoland native and I ride the Metra trains all the time, and I always see/hear about people who may/may not be homeless just ride the trains back and forth from one end of a line to the city, especially on weekends. Is this a common problem and how do you feel about it?

MetraConductor3 karma

When I worked weekends, I saw this all the time. A homeless person will hang out at a station and ask people who just got off for their weekend ticket or they will board the train and fish one out of the garbage can or maybe they will buy one out of their own pocket and have a warm place to hang out for the day. Most of the time this wasn't really a problem other than some bad body odor but once in a while we would have to bounce a belligerent off the train. Overall, it never really bothered me but I can see how someone wouldn't want to spend an hour train ride near someone who is pretty ripe.

TheMagicFlight2 karma

This is more of a thing on the L, not the Metra. Personally I don't think I've ever seen homeless people on the Metra.

MetraConductor4 karma

Ride any midday weekend METRA train in the winter then get back to me...

resay51 karma

How often do you get into issues with people claiming they already got their ticket punched or shown? Do you notice someone who got on at a stop but refused come forth with a ticket when asking for them after that stop?

MetraConductor5 karma

The off peak trains are notorious for people "chisling" their way into a free ride. They will say just that. "The other guy punched it". I will simply go to the "other guy" and confirm it. Also, each conductor's ticket punch leaves a different shape on a ticket so if someone hands me a scraggily looking ticket, I compare it to the punch marks of the guys I am working with. When someone gets on my train and heads straight to the bathroom, that's a red flag and I will wait on them to come out.

diode_milliampere1 karma

What's your favorite story from "On the Bi Level," if you read it

MetraConductor5 karma

I really dont have a favorite story but I loved to hear the elitists complain about petty shit.

diode_milliampere1 karma

well i guess i meant favorite complaint... seeing as the letters/complaint section is the best

MetraConductor2 karma

My favorite, now that I think about it, was a guy who wrote in with the solution of farting in order to keep a whole seat to himself.

diode_milliampere1 karma

LOL clever tactic. People are such bad seat share-ers compared to the CTA. suburbs....

MetraConductor1 karma

Yep. Entitlement runs rampant in the burbs...

allshallend1 karma

What are your thoughts on Ventra? I know Metra isn't using it at the moment, but if I recall correctly there's a rule in place mandating a common system for CTA, Pace and Metra by 2015.

MetraConductor2 karma

IF it will make my job easier I am all for it. Don't hold that 2015 law near and dear. Railroads have a way of extending such deadlines...

allshallend1 karma

Having heard mostly negative things about Ventra so far (especially in comparison to the current CTA system), I sincerely hope they at the very least use a different system if/when everyone gets standardized.

MetraConductor2 karma

Don't hold your breath. This was RTA approved and the RTA oversees us so this may be a case of what's good for the goose is good for the gander...

peakyfreak801 karma

My wife rides downtown every day and a few times (usually at the beginning of the month) she has forgotten her monthly pass and doesn't have cash. Fortunately she's a regular, so they just ask to show it the next day, but what is Metra policy if someone is short on money or realizes they don't have any cash on them?

MetraConductor2 karma

Basically it is to cut them a break. We understand things happen and people forget their wallets, purses, passes etc. Seeing that it is a regular definitely helps my decision process.

DayCMeTrollin1 karma

Do you think Metra should be adding or cutting service? Also, are there some stations that should be built or eliminated?

MetraConductor4 karma

METRA should be a cash cow but they managed to shoot themselves in the foot with awful decision making. With gas prices what they are and charging folks an arm and a leg to park downtown, cutting service would have a negative impact on the local economy because people would cut a lot out of their personal budgets if they had to drive into the city and park there. As far as stops, yeah, there are some that should disappear but again, it's politics. If you strip town "A" of it's depot because ridership doesn't warrant it you will piss off the wrong politician and Springfield bill "A" may not see as much support/money then it would otherwise.

TheHanna3 karma

That would explain the Rock Island line having like 12 stops between 91st and Vermont street. There's no way Beverly needs that many damn stops.

MetraConductor1 karma

That would. Cronyism runs rampant inside Metra...

MommyDrinks1 karma

Quiet Cars: How do you guys really feel about them? My conductor in the morning makes an announcement about them (BNSF) but the ones in the afternoon seem like they could give a shit.

MetraConductor4 karma

Most of us could give a shit. Look, it's public transportation and to set TWO cars aside and crown them as silent is ridiculous. And the people that sit in said cars are obnoxious about other's making so much as a peep. In the summer, when tourists and commuters meet head on in a quiet car...holy shit. Yeah, no use for them and I got better things to do than babysit a quiet car. Sorry for sugarcoating it... ;)

legalbeagle052 karma

As a twice-daily rider all the way to Zone H (yes, that's about an hour and 15 minutes one way IF the trains on time) I couldn't be happier with the quiet cars. In the morning it gives me a chance to get some extra sleep in without rowdy teenagers and in the afternoon I get some down time after a long, stressful day at work. I'd say rush hour commuters are pretty good about adhering to the policy and self-govern. The only major issues I see are during things like festivals, so most daily commuters understand. I started taking Metra about a year before the quiet cars were enacted and now I couldn't imagine going back to that. At least having the option to have a quiet environment is nice. I'd say they are rather popular as well. On my line the quiet cars are always the first ones to be filled.

MetraConductor2 karma

I don't disagree with you that the people who sit in the quiet cars appreciate them. MY issue with them is that SOME of the quiet car riders are completely unreasonable with ANY noise being emitted. Case in point: When I enter a quiet car, I announce "Tickets, Please" the same as any other car. Inevitably, there is someone who gives me a look that says "SHUT THE HELL UP!". Hey, this is my work environment and if I have something to say, I will say it. Same thing if a customer asks me a question in a quiet car. I will talk to that person in an "indoor" voice until they are satisfied with the answer. I have actually had a QC rider tell me (not ask) to take to the vestibule. We call these types "Quiet car Nazis". So I guess like everything else, it only takes a few jerks to sway my overall opinion of the quiet cars. I'm glad you find it a nice aspect of your ride. To me and a lot of other conductors, it's a pain in the ass and enforcing it is way down on my list of things to do. However, like you said, it is pretty self governed and if a drunk or asshole kid is in there causing a disturbance, rest assured I will step in and remove them. If someone points to a couple who are having a whisper conversation I just keep on going.

circleandsquare1 karma

What do you think of the TSA that's been spotted at Union recently? Necessary or no?

MetraConductor4 karma

Probably as effective as TSA at O'Hare...

circleandsquare2 karma

They're a bunch of professional toothpaste confiscators, really. But I'll be damned if I have to get my nuts touched or run through the backscatter to get on an Amtrak to Champaign. I'd rather walk than deal with that shit.

MetraConductor2 karma

Not sure of the financials but I'm guessing the Feds pay to have those guys walk around the depot and scope out chicks. Sure, it's no cost to Metra but I have never seen them do anything constructive. Not that they don't...but I have never seen it.

mct19701 karma

you ever have to defend yourself because someone attacked you?

MetraConductor2 karma

Yes. All I can say is that they had no idea what was in store.

PrinceTrollestia1 karma

What's your favorite stretch of railroad? And your least favorite?

MetraConductor4 karma

Least favorite coming into the city in the morning. Most favorite is that last mile to my outlying point in the evening. ;)

TheMagicFlight2 karma

How long are your shifts? It sounds like you don't like the job all that much. What do you think?

MetraConductor3 karma

I do like my job. There is good and bad but with some established seniority, it get's better due to better runs. I work 13 hours a day.

TheMagicFlight1 karma

13 hours in a day!!! Dang you work a lot! Sounds like hard work.

MetraConductor4 karma

It's a lot of back and forth. I'll put it this way...I would notice if someone's house was painted.

mjh841 karma

would you recommend this job to someone who wants a 9-5 office alternative? how's the pension/benefits?

MetraConductor1 karma

Railroading in general isn't for everyone. In train service you will start out on call, 24/7. Terrible on the family life. It get's better with time. The pension is real good. I don't pay into social security, I pay into railroad retirement. Health insurance is excellent.

adisolda1 karma

Do you happen to know how to become an engineer for passenger train companies? Is it like getting a CDL? Also, how do conductors usually signal to the engineer when the train can continue?

MetraConductor1 karma

There is a light in the locomotive/operating cab that tells the engineer when all the doors close. When they are at a station and the doors open, the light goes off. When the doors close, light goes on and off they go. Best way to get an engineers license is hire on with a freight company. Metra LOVES to hire engineers from the freight companies because their training program is top notch.

dubsteez1 karma

do you conduct on the Union Pacific northwest line?

MetraConductor1 karma

I am a conductor on one of the Metra lines ;)

take_the_black1 karma

Chicago metra user here.

  1. There's a few of you very kind, hardworking conductors that actually police the quiet cars. Thank you if you're one of them. What can we do to have quiet hours during night commutes after rush hours. Can't stand the obnoxious drunks after 18 hour days.

  2. The bathrooms are terrible and smell outside in train car. Who can we send an email discussing this. One person keeps putting the bathroom scent candle next to seats.

  3. What's the real story behind the train switch failures?

  4. What are the conductors feelings over the metra CEO/chairman golden parachute fiasco? Will my monthly prices ever come down?

Thanks I know the good ones do exist.

MetraConductor1 karma

Not sure if they will ever have off-peak quiet cars. What I used to do when I worked nights was that I would usher the drunks into one car and leave the rear car open to "decent" folk. That seemed to work just fine. I know other guys do that as well. Yes, the bathrooms are terrible. The tanks back up and the smell is God awful. Switch failures are just that. A lot of the interlockings (where multiple train lines converge and cross one another) are old as dirt. Over 100 years old in fact and they seem to go down at the drop of a hat. Im not sure, short of tearing them out and rebuilding them, what can be done. Winter is worse than others and strangely enough, ever notice that switch failures seem to happen in clumps? Like there will be 7 in a week then nothing for a month or so. The former CEO was in over his head. He was hired from a bus company in LA and suddenly he was in charge of the 2nd largest commuter rail agency in the country? Really??? I think it was definite hush money because he has the goods on a ton of people, Im sure. The rash of board members resigning says enough. Don't see the cost of your ticket getting smaller, sad to say.

damageinc551 karma

How do you keep track of the zones for people who prefer not to leave their ten-ride/monthly displayed on the upper level?

MetraConductor1 karma

It's basically an honor system. You have 1300 people on a train with sometimes 3 conductors. What can you do other then have faith that people are honest? Do people buy a D zone ticket and stay on the train until the H zone? I'd bet my house on it. Some guys do what is called a double sweep meaning they do an initial sweep out of the city then enroute do it again. It's not Metra policy that they do this but they just do it and that is one way to have a checks and balances I suppose.

paulcosca1 karma

Do you look like Seth Rogan? Because I rode with the same conductor every week like looked like Seth Rogan.

MetraConductor1 karma

I don't think I do?

paulcosca1 karma

Yeah...you'd know. I'm pretty sure this guy actually was Seth Rogan, just researching for a role or something.

MetraConductor1 karma

I honestly do not recall ever hearing he was riding around as a conductor doing any research for a film. What line to you ride?

vodkapenguin1 karma

Is your job fulfilling?

MetraConductor1 karma

About average, I guess.

ggolemg1 karma

Do you think one day soon your job will be replaced by automation?

MetraConductor2 karma

Not completely but I think you will see just one conductor on a train eventually as new forms of ticketing and a doomsday budget scenario present themselves.

JC081 karma

How easy is it to get a free ride on a metra train?

MetraConductor3 karma

Well if you are going just one stop on a rush hour train, it can be rather easy. Get on in the front, walk through the train like you belong there and when the train pulls into the next station, walk off. A longer trip requires a bit of craftiness. Don't lock yourself into a bathroom, we look for that. Moving about may help your chances if you look like you belong. That is the key. A scumbag on a rush hour train who looks shady probably is.

aensues1 karma

I heard that there has been reporting going on for conductors who miss too many "free rides." Are you aware of the performance metrics Metra keeps? As someone who accidentally has rode for free in the past (fell asleep in the upper deck on a late night train almost to the end of the line), I don't want to be responsible for someone losing their job.

MetraConductor3 karma

Metra does have "spotters" who ride trains to check on conductors doing their job. It's all in the numbers. If conductor A normally collects 400.00 in fares daily and goes to another assignment and conductor B replaces him and collects 200.00 in fares then they will check up on conductor B to see why he is collecting half the normal established monies. Most of us are doing a good job. Don't sweat it and if someone does miss you, approach them and tell them so. They will appreciate it. Just this morning I did miss a guy. I was collecting and talking with a few regulars and I just passed this guy up. Next time by he handed me his 10 ride with a sly smile and a "You skipped me." Next time that guy forgets his ticket or is short on cash, I'll take care of him.

ico2ico21 karma

I find the key is body language. We're pre-programmed to feel uncomfortable bothering someone who looks busy.

Also, I notice that pretending to be asleep works with female conductors, but not males. Perhaps it's a nurturing instinct thing.

MetraConductor4 karma

The sleep thing cracks me up. So you just got on my train and you fell asleep in 30 seconds? Ok. Yeah, you may be on to something their with the male/female thing. I wake them up.