METRA:: Does METRA Need a Measure of Mission Control?

METRA and MISSION CONTROL

Article inspired by the airing of an interview on News Radio 780 WBBM, conducted between Political Reporter Craig Dellimore and METRA Chairman Martin Oberman, presented this past Sunday.

METRA, an organization of regional rail resources spreading throughout the Chicago -land area and touching thousands of lives each day, has seen its share of controversies.

But it like any business that has sincere interests in its customers/patrons/riders, the conditions that seeded the ground for corruption can be removed and the ground re -seeded and restored to ensure proper performance.

First of all, we have plenty of resources to understand what METRA is and what its purposes and missions are. Thus we can look at the other part of this article’s title- “mission control”.

And it’s not just for NASA these days!

Let us remember our space history, what inspired NASA and the moon missions to take off, a simple set of words spoken by President Kennedy in a speech to Congress.

The words that set in motion the principles of the concept we know as mission control are these:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

The essence of mission control is this: that each person is so well -trained and efficient that their concerns for the safety of their colleagues and their customers is foremost in their minds and in everything they do, every single day. We must remember that NASA has had its share of political encounters and interference, and of successes and failures and sadness. As we as a nation lost astronauts, the people of NASA, who were the closest to those people next to their families, mourned an even deeper eulogy: in the times of Apollo 1, of the tragedy of the Challenger explosion and of the loss of Columbia, we all felt those events right to the core of our thoughts, prayers and values. We wondered if the space program was worthy of funding, yet on we went with it. We now have the challenges of dealing with how to supply and maintain the International Space Station, but we are not giving up. We are working on it.

Yes, we are working on it- actively, honestly, and every day. We are working on it.

METRA in its transformation must continue the role of providing safe and efficient transportation and facilities for the tens of thousands of people who use its rolling stock and stations every week. In the face of skepticism and resistance and the lagging specters of corruption METRA must stand and face what has happened square -on, let their ridership know that they are working to improve conditions, and continue to do so. We must of course see the efforts and see the progress so we will know that our money is being efficiently spent.

For the powers of METRA are ones of control, huge amounts of control. The members of the METRA board control huge amounts of power and resources and have the lives of all those patrons in their hands. It is control all right… goodness it is a serious duty to discharge with faith and honor.

In those hands they have the safety of children and parents, of those who need to have their guidance animals close at hand, and of the people who maintain the rolling stock and the tracks and staff the stations. Every day they must consider how to handle millions of dollars and to do so in ways that will satisfy their ridership and those who watch over their performance. And they must perform, no matter if they are elected or appointed: they must perform because it is the proper thing to do.

It is all back to square one: the safety of their riders and the backbone workers who keep the organization running on a daily basis. METRA’s directors are no doubt aware that every day there are men and women out there working on the cars, the rails, and in the repair houses trying their best to work to keep us safe. No doubt those are very difficult jobs. If you start to read about the statistics of the locomotives and the rail cars and understand their power and weight and size, you realize that much effort is required to maintain even one train’s worth of cars and a locomotive. That’s millions of tons moving at 55 or more miles per hour over rails that amaze with their strength and resilience, rails that had to be constructed to precise measurements by people who have the same concerns as should the members of the METRA board. They have the safety of the riders and workers in mind.

Now if those resources were properly used, I do not think we as regular riders would object to the monies that would be needed to buy new rail cars. OK, so $3 million is not a figure people throw around every day for spending on transit, and each rail car would cost that much. But consider the headaches and maintenance costs that go into dealing with the old cars and it is plain there is great need for new cars. This rider would be happy with new cars; no more doors getting stuck and the like.

More quiet cars of course would be welcome; people need quiet and calm and peace when they are getting off work in the noisy city, and we need to have more courtesy around others. Excessive use of mobile devices can be unwelcome, considering we are around them every day for hours on end and they are not always used in places of work and shopping. This patron certainly would welcome entire trains of quiet cars!

There are other issues that affect METRA’s workings, such as the daily doings of Union Pacific and BNSF railroad companies, and the ancient deals made with them that keep commuters hoping that there are no further or no serious delays in their comings and goings. The METRA board must do what it is able to keep commuters happy and safe while talks and deals with the railroads carry on.

Meanwhile, the miracles of mission control must be “up and at them” in everyone’s conscience. They must be repeated every day like a company creed or a mantra that inspires us to consider others and treat people better.

METRA’s board must get with it and be really “on the level” if they are to keep us happy with the “bi -level”.

RESOURCES

1. https://metrarail.com/metra/en/home/about_metra/leadership.html. 16 April 2014.

2. http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/xzw1gaeeTES6khED14P1Iw.aspx. From the Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on 25 May 1961. 16 April 2014.

3. http://www.nipponsharyousa.com/products/pages/zusametra-pc1994.htm. Weight and other statistics of METRA passenger cars. 16 April 2014.

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