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Commuter Confusion And Delays As Metra Installs Safety System

CHICAGO (CBS) --  It is a crowded ride for frustrated passengers.

Metra is working through a new schedule while starting a new safety system.

The changes were rolled out on the BNSF line Monday, and that's when the headaches began.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole reports from Metra's Cicero stop.

The BNSF line is the first line to initiate this federally mandated safety system.

But it's coming with a significant amount of growing pains. Especially for the line's 64,000 daily riders.

On board, trains brimming with passengers, you can hear the frustrations about changes in their riding conditions since Monday.

"It's packed, and then from work I had to switch my time just to make it on time to pick up my kids," said Metra rider Fatima Jurato.

"The platform was notably crowded the past two days," said Metra commuter Nick Mascitti. "You could barely see the concrete on the ground."

At Metra's board meeting, its CEO Jim Derwinski asked for the public's patience.

"It's going to take some time. It is not an instantaneous fix," he said.

The new safety equipment which guards against operator error adds five minutes to train turnaround time.

That forced Metra to reschedule and create 94 new runs with newer departure times.

"We really can't predict whether or not the people are going to take earlier train or the later train," said Derwinski. "This is the first time it's been done on 94 trains all at the same time."

To relieve overcrowding, Metra added additional cars to four morning runs. But that can't always be the solution.

The Union Station platform can only accommodate 11 cars maximum. And with a finite number available, when you add a car to one train, you take one away from another.

"Where we can move the cars, we will move the cars," said Derwinski. "We're not going to preemptively move a car and create another problem on another train. This is going to be an evolution."

Metra has placed apologies on the seats of its trains.

This is the first phase of the safety system. Eventually all Metra trains on all lines will have them.

Up next, the Union Pacific West line. That'll happen sometime at the end of the summer.



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