Friday, April 13, 2012

There’s going to be a lot of last-minute adjustments for South Side commuters

Knowing my luck, at some point in the next few days I’m going to be offered some magnificent job that will be just too good to turn down, but will require me to turn back to regular use of commuter trains.

Because it seems that the commuters from the South and Southwest sides and their surrounding suburbs are going to have to figure out how to get between their homes and downtown Chicago next month when NATO has its summit next month at the McCormick Place.

THE PROBLEM, INSOFAR as security for that event is concerned, is that there are railroad tracks that run underneath the building – which makes it vulnerable in so many ways to someone looking to cause mischief.

Those tracks are used by the Metra electric trains that run to suburban University Park and Blue Island, along with the trains that run to the South Chicago neighborhood.

They also are used by the South Shore commuter rail trains that make a stop in the Hegewisch neighborhood – along with stops in several Northwest Indiana cities en route to South Bend.

I’m sure the people who live to the northwest who never give a thought to anything that exists south of Congress Parkway will be shrugging their shoulders and thinking, “Who cares?!?”

BUT THE FACT that security officials are hinting that trains may have to be halted for the duration of the NATO summit (scheduled for May 20-21) and the days leading up to the event threatens to interfere with many thousands of people being able to get to their jobs.

A lot of people are going to need all the time they can get to try to figure out a back-up plan; whether that means driving to work, or driving a bit to the west to catch a commuter train on the Rock Island line that goes to Joliet – making stops throughout the Beverly neighborhood and suburbs such as Oak Forest, Tinley Park and Frankfort along the way.

Which means those commuter trains will be overloaded with passengers – a fact that is bound to infuriate the “regulars” who are going to think of this as some sort of intrusion on their turf.

Yes, during my experiences with commuting, I have used both the Metra Electric and Rock Island line trains. So this is a very real experience that, at one time, would have impacted me personally.

IT MAY STILL do so, if it turns out that I wind up in Chicago (either at McCormick Place or in downtown proper) as a reporter-type person writing about the gatherings of people who feel it is their obligation to show up at the event and protest the existence and activities of NATO.

Or maybe I’ll get lucky and figure out a way to bypass those locales for those few days next month.

What complicates the situation is the fact that the Secret Service (which is overseeing security measures for the event) is going out of its way to say nothing whatsoever about the security measures.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Metra won’t know until the end of April what they will be allowed to do insofar as running those commuter trains in proximity to the dignitaries.

WHICH MEANS THAT real people likely will get about two weeks, at most, to figure out what they will need to do to ensure they can still get to their jobs – because somehow I doubt the employers of downtown Chicago are going to feel all that sympathetic to the dilemma being faced by their South Side-residing employees.

There’s also an amusing aspect to this issue – the fact that May 20 (a Sunday) is the date of a ballgame at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and cross-town Chicago White Sox.

Sox fans from the sout’ being unable to get to the Lakeview neighborhood to see their club of choice smack the Cubs around a bit will feel like a deprivation.

Unless, by some fluke chance, the Chicago Cubs actually manage to win that ballgame. In which case, the security interferences could turn out to be a bit of mental salvation for us.


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