More than 60,000 downtown Chicago workers are waiting either for hours or having to find another way home tonight due to an ongoing Amtrak signal problem.
Metra informed people who leave Union Station to consider alternative commuters, since an Amtrak signal issue that disturbed morning travel was still not resolved as of evening rush hour. Union Station on Thursday night was jammed with commuters waiting for trains. Eighty-six Metra trains are currently affected, with delays of up to three hours. The Amtrak trains are also delayed.
Each railway operating outside Union Station is affected, including Metra's BNSF, Milwaukee District West and Milwaukee District North, Heritage Corridor, North Central and SouthWest. About 1[ads1]30,000 people ride these lines on an average weekday, according to Metra passenger reports.
"People must be aware and expect that even if they solve it, there will be some residual delays," said Meta-spokeswoman Meg Thomas-Reile. "It takes a long time."
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that a communication problem with the automated system requires the passenger lane to use manual controls and that repairs are in progress. Passing on Blue, Pink, Green and Orange.
Simone Hunt left the line, decided to have dinner and try again later.
"How are they going to fit everybody on two trains," she asked. "That will not happen."
Usually, Switches and Signals are operated externally by transmitters from a central control center, Magliari explains. Due to breakdown, the workers are instead operator switches on the farm, otherwise from "changing bungalows", which are small metal buildings near the tracks. Dispatchers are also in radio communication by train.
Because the central system is down, and because dispatchers can't see the location of the trains, the only way to move traffic is one train at a time, Magliari said.
"You can't move the volume through the building just as effectively and quickly," he explained.
The manual switch that Amtrak does affects all railway lines.
Some passengers on trains this morning saw delays of more than two hours. Brian Pitts of La Grange Park, who takes BNSF, praised the Metra Conductor to provide regular updates and send out water during a two-hour and twenty-minute delay.
Pitts said in an email that he understands that rail cannot help delays caused by people being killed or cars going around the gates. "But why can't they find the signals and replace them?" Asked Pitts.
Thursday's delays come on top of several other metric delays in recent months, including weather-related breakdowns over two days of unusually cold weather, equipment issues, overcrowding, and air conditioning breaches at BNSF in the summer, and problems with Positive Train Control, a new system designed to prevent crashes.
mbuckley @ chicagotribune.com