Metra launched its "Quiet Car" operation today, introducing a program that it hopes will make for a less noisy commute for some riders. And the reaction appeared to be quiet, at least based on what some commuters said during Monday morning's rush hour.
Gaurav Gaonkar didn't realize he got in a quiet car, but he's glad he did.
"I actually had no idea," said Gaonkar, who commutes from Buffalo Grove to the Illinois Institute of Technology. "It was very quiet. The conductor didn’t need to really say anything."
It was a nice experience because people could do whatever they needed, Gaonkar said.
"That just happened to be my car," said Jennifer LaGrandeur, who works in finance downtown and ended up in a quiet car during her commute this morning.
LaGrandeur said the car was silent and she was able to work the entire train ride, adding that she'd definitely seek a quiet car for her next Metra ride.
Conductors gave reminder cards to riders not following the rules. Some passengers reported conductors asking them to quiet down, though Metra has said peer pressure will be largely responsible for keeping the volume down.
Emma Larsson chose not to sit in a quiet car Monday morning, but said she's excited to have the option. Larsson, a designer for a Chicago company, will utilize the quiet cars when other sections get too noisy. Many riders said trains are fairly quiet in the morning.
"That sounds great," said Robyn Chapman, who was taking an outbound train this morning.
On a five-car Milwaukee North Line train heading toward downtown this morning, some passengers were apparently unaware of the new rules. Conductor Don Kiesgen said he had to tell several riders to get off their cell phones or move to another car and expressed frustration as to what extent he is supposed to go in enforcing the rule while not wanting to anger regular riders.
One regular rider challenged him, apparently unfamiliar with the new rule, he said.
"Her comment was, 'Who made that rule?' " Kiesgen said, adding that she never hung up her cell phone but kept talking as she got off the train at her stop. "I said, 'Metra.' She kept talking on her phone."
The car was half full about 8:15 a.m., with most passengers quiet. One couple could be heard chatting quietly, and loud music was detected coming out of one young man's earbuds.
The trains are posted with signs indicating they're quiet cars, but that could be easy to miss. One is posted outside the train when passengers enter and another inside the car behind the front seat closest to the vestibule. On this train, a man's head was blocking the sign.
According to the agency, there will be quiet cars on all lines. The second car from the engine and the second car from the other end of the train will be designated a quiet car on all diesel trains with 6 cars or more. On trains with five cars or less, only the second car from the engine will be a quiet car.. There is no quiet car on two-car trains.
On the Metra Electric Line, only the third car from the south end of the train is a quiet car.
The quiet hours will apply only to trains arriving in Chicago terminals before 9 a.m. and leaving Chicago terminals between 3:30 and 6 p.m.
The agency asks that all passengers sitting in the quiet cars turn off the ringer on their cellphones, mute electronic devices, and keep the volume low when using headphones. Any passengers that need to use their phones are asked move to another car.
According to a release, "Conversations between passengers are discouraged," and if you do talk, "please keep it short and use subdued voices."
Aditi Singh, 30, and Ambuj Kumar, 35, realized they were sitting on a quiet car sometime after they boarded the train in Lake Forest and noticed Metra's sign. But they chatted softly throughout the ride to Union Station, and no one said anything to them about it.
"We talked very softly," Singh said.
Kumar added: "I thought it was meant for cell phones."
When told that talking was discouraged, he wasn't sure he agreed with the rule, at least was it pertains to short rides.
"With a long commute, it makes sense," Kumar said.
Another rider, Clifton Daniel who boarded at Forest Glen, read a book during his commute. Yet, "I had no idea it was a quiet car," he said . He said he wasn't sure if the rule was necessary. "The other cars aren't that noisy in the morning."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun