(Chicago, Illinois – January 17, 2014)
Chicago Metra Board of Director members blasted the Union Pacific Railroad, which along with BNSF operates Metra commuter passenger trains for the massive Chicago metropolitan rail network, for dumping dozens of passengers from a train emanating from Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Center at the unprotected and poorly-sheltered Clybourn station in north Chicago on the Kenosha, WI line January 6 as wind chill temperatures dropped to minus 45 degrees. Union Pacific was intending to run the train, unoccupied, to Crystal Lake, IL.
It was the railroad’s intention to pick the passengers up and take them to their intended destinations via another UP-operated Metra train five minutes later, only to have the second train delayed 45 minutes.
One of the suffering passengers, Mary Fain, 51, of Jefferson Park shared her forgettable experience with Chicago Sun-Times Staff Writer Rosalind Rossi. She said several elderly men were among the passengers on the open platform at Clybourn, as well as a young girl whose face she described as “scarlet” and “painful”. Fain said the situation was “The stupidest thing ever – in the world.”
Metra Board Member went a bit further in her criticism, telling UPRR executive David Connell at Friday’s monthly METRA BOD meeting “I cannot believe such a decision would come out of an organization such as yours”, she chastised. “A single individual cannot make a hasty decision like that. To put people at risk in those temperatures is unbelievable. I was appalled!”
Mulder, who is also the former mayor of Arlington Heights, IL was livid in her evaluation of the railroad’s role in the faux pas. “This is a big black mark,” she continued. “This is something no one is ever gonna forget. It’s just lucky no one had a serious backlash personally.”
UP’s Connell said apologetically that the decision which created the problem was a “tactical” one a member of management made “with the best of intentions.” He referred to the January 6-7 storm as “an extraordinary event.”
Another Metra Board Member, Jack Schaffer, demanded that the railroad respond by changing its practices “in writing” so that “we never have another Clybourn incident.”
Metra interim CEO Don Orseno said that he had met the previous day with top executives from both UP and BNSF, and that the consensus was that “We all agreed that we had to improve” and that communication with Metra riders during the storm was “not at its best.” But the CEO pledged to let the commuter authority’s passengers know of Metra’s plans before future storms hit rather than during such catastrophes.