An iPhone leads 20 people off a stuck Metra train in Chicago

Quiet Metra train

The platform is completely empty at the 103rd street Metra station at 10:17pm on a Tuesday night. As the train arrives, I’m the only one to board the only open car on the train. While looking for an open seat, about 3/4 of the train is sleeping. I think to myself, “This will be a boring ride home”

The only open seat left on the train welcomes me to sit down and join the rest of the sleepers.

There’s a problem

The train stops at 87th street and Halsted. The conductor comes onto our part of the car and announces, “we have a problem. There’s a broken freight train at 16th street, and we cannot get past it. This train will go back to Blue Island (15 minutes away), you will take shuttle bus to the Metra Electric line at Blue Island and that train will take you back into the city.”

Uh. Excuse me?

Go backwards to Blue Island? Blue Island is in the opposite direction of where I came from. It’s further away from the city than where I originally boarded.

I ask the conductor when the next Blue Island train is leaving. He didn’t even know! How could he not know? We could be waiting there in the cold for two hours!

The conductor said we could also just take the Halsted Street bus which was right where we are. Sounds simple enough, right? But when is the bus coming?

iPhone to the rescue!

I tell people on my car, “hold on, i’m gonna look up when the next bus is coming on CTA bus tracker. I whip out my handy dandy iPhone.


I pull up all the stops for the number 8 bus route northbound. But there’s no stop for 87th Street. How can that be? The conductor said there is the Halsted Street bus. But I’m telling ya, 87th street is not on this list. All the numbered streets stop at 79th street.

How can this be? The conductor said there’s a Halsted Street bus.

Answer: The Metra conductor knows nothing about the CTA.

I pull up the CTA system map on my iPhone.


Certainly enough. The Halsted Street bus only goes as far as the 79th street. We’d have to take the 8A bus to get to the 79th Street station. I pull up the schedule for the 8A bus, and it’s not running this late. We’d have to walk 8 blocks to the 79th Street station.

Someone asks how far the red line is. That was simple. I show there’s a 87th street stop, so that means it’s also 8 blocks to the red line. A few of us opt to get off the train and walk to the red line. As we get off, I announce to people, “We are getting a group to talk to the red line. Anyone who wants to join us, please come.”

Adventuring out

We got about 20 people from the train to walk with us. It was quite a slice of Chicago. All races, all ages. We even had a mom with her baby in a stroller.

We walk down the stairs to the ground level and wait for the mom and the baby in the stroller. Once she reached the ground, we start our eight-block trek to the red line. Everyone is very friendly. One fellow told me that his car broke down in Tinley, and the tow truck dropped him off at the Metra station at 159th where he waited two hours for this Metra to come. Can you imagine? Your car breaks down. You get a ride in a tow truck. You wait two hours for the Metra, and then the Metra train flips out. Poor dude. He was in good spirits though.

Thankfully after walking half a block, someone notices the 87th Street bus coming. We all quickly cross the street and wait thirty seconds for the bus to come.

Bus saves us

There we all stand. The adventurers. The ones willing for a fun challenge. All standing in the middle of what feels like nowhere at 10:30pm at night. As the bus driver pulls up, we joke that he must be wondering why in the world all these people are standing at this one bus stop.

As we board the bus, there are so many confused people how to use the CTA bus. I was kinda suprised that so many people who ride the Metra wouldn’t know how the CTA operates. There were people who didn’t know how to use CTA cards.

The fun people: bar hitter

Once we get going, it’s funny to see how different people react to this situation. I sit in the back of the bus and there’s this one dude who wants to use this as an excuse to get people together in a bar and drink.

The fun people: the hockey dancer

Another dude sees a guy with a Blackhawks cap and starts doing hockey moves in the aisle of the bus.

The fun people: BMW guy with a broken car

The guy who had his car busted sat next to me and gave me his card. He works for BMW.

The bus quickly arrives at the red line, and our happy group gets off and walks down to the red line. More confusion with people. Which is kinda funny, because these people just figured out how to pay for the bus, but yet they were still confused with how to pay for the train. Eventually everyone got through the gates and we waited for the train to come.

About 10 minutes later the train comes, and most of us board on the same car. We chit-chatted for a bit. The topic was about gambling and people’s favorite gambling boats.

The fun people: Suicide gambling story guy

Then one dude gets all excited talking about how someone committed suicide because this person lost all his money. But he tells the story all excited-like. I turn to the BMW guy and say, “this trip is just getting weirder and weirder by the moment.”

The BMW guy was going to get off at Belmont and take the 77 Belmont bus to Damen, but he wasn’t sure if the bus was running that late. Bust out the iPhone!


Yup, sure enough, I was able to reassure him that the bus was still running this late.

The fun people: Paper-bag-booze-drinking gay dude

Then a couple seats in front of me there’s a dude drinking booze out of paper bag talking about he just broke up with his male friend and he’s all sad, and he’s going out to get himself pepped up. I ask him where he’s going. He said he’s getting off the red line at Belmont to go to Boystown. I say, “ah Halsted. I lived at Halsted and Cornelia.” I dunno why I shared this piece of information within this context, because I didn’t live there for Boystown. In fact, I didn’t even know Boystown was there until I after I signed my lease. But so when I shared this little bit of info, the drinkin-his-sorrows-away guy gives me this stare like he wanted me to come with him. I was like, Uhhhh. So i turned to the BMW dude and said, “I really liked living by Wrigleyville with all the Cubs games.”

My stop Fullerton came and I left my friends on the train. It was a fun adventure.


The sleepy Metra train ended up yielding a fun adventure thanks to the help with my iPhone.

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13 years ago

So what percentage of the Metra train people followed Moses Matt and his powerful iPhone staff? Did you part the Red Sea of Snow? You should have struck down the gam-bling conversation with the display of the Ten Commandment tablets.

13 years ago

what an adventure matt! i can’t believe you were able to take cta on the southside at that hour. with all the cuts these days, so many of the buses (like 103rd) have stopped running “later”. I also can’t believe so many people followed you off metra to cta . . . at gresham, no less. hope you didn’t share this story with ma and dad before tomorrow.

Tom Saaristo
Tom Saaristo
13 years ago

Cool! Congrats!

12 years ago

There is a whole number of excellent ways of transporting your self from points A to B, when you are in the windy city. Chicago Metra

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