Metra says it is taking extra steps to ensure the safety of its staff and riders as the COVID-19 pandemic response continues.
Spokeswoman Meg Thomas-Reile said one car on every train is reserved for crew only, in an effort to limit exposure between passengers and Metra staff. Conductors continue assisting passengers to board and disembark at train stops.
In another effort to limit contact between crew and passengers, Metra suspended cash ticket sales on trains, suggesting riders buy tickets using the Ventra mobile app.
Other procedures involve announcements that encourage social distancing, asking passengers to keep space between one another while seated, and as they wait to disembark at stops.
“We have found that riders are creatures of habit and were crowding the lead cars and the vestibules as trains approached the stations. This puts both our crews and riders at risk,” Thomas-Reile said in an email to The Chronicle.
“With our current ridership, there is ample room throughout the trains to enable social distancing, but people have resisted moving from their habitual spots and want the other passengers to move.”
If there aren’t enough seats available in a car, Metra asks passengers to move to another one. Crews have been instructed to allow extra time for riders to do so.
“The crews are still walking the trains and will advise riders if a car is getting too full,” Thomas-Reile said. “However, we can’t force people to move. It is up to them to take some action and move if they feel a car is too crowded.”
If the crew believes a train is becoming too crowded, they can open additional cars to help riders disperse.
Metra is asking riders to stay seated until trains are stopped, and remain 6 feet apart while waiting to disembark.
Train car interiors also are being cleaned more often, with workers operating in 12-hour shifts for six to seven days per week. A variety of disinfectants are used, with an emphasis on areas like railings, seats, bathrooms and doors.
“We have also been wiping down high contact areas when trains are between runs at downtown stations. We have purchased a number of steam cleaners and electro-static sprayers, and trained employees to use them. And we have more on order,” Thomas-Reile said.
Cars currently in service are the focus right now but Metra aims to “deep clean” every car by the time it returns to normal service.
“If any employee reports feeling ill, we have also deployed those cleaners to fully disinfect any passenger equipment and any other areas with which they may have had contact. Employees who may have had close contact are put on self-isolation,” Thomas-Reile said.
An alternate schedule in response to lower ridership was last updated on April 9.