Despite a plan to prevent overcrowding at Union Station, back-to-back switch problems during Monday's afternoon rush created claustrophobic conditions for Metra riders and prompted an apology from the agency, BSNF Railroad and Amtrak on Tuesday.
The crush at Union Station and subsequent delays affected thousands of passengers on the BNSF, SouthWest Service and Heritage Corridor lines.
Metra introduced a detailed strategy to prevent extreme crowding situations at Union Station in 2014 that includes closing entrances to the south concourse where the popular BNSF trains board and keeping people in the Great Hall.
On Monday, separate switch problems that affected several tracks delayed trains just as nearly 150,000 people started pouring into the station between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.
"Unfortunately, Metra was not given sufficient notification from Amtrak and therefore did not implement the plan until the south concourse was already congested," Metra Executive Director Don Orseno said.
"With that many people entering the station from multiple entrances, every second counts," said Orseno who called the conditions Monday "unacceptable."
Commuters described being stuck in the south concourse of Union Station and receiving conflicting information.
"It wasn't horrible but seemed like it might get that way," BNSF rider Paul Barr of Berwyn said. "The instructions about where they wanted us to go sounded odd."
Orseno noted that "Amtrak is now taking steps to ensure Metra is better notified every time an issue occurs."
He added that upgrades are occurring to the historical station to give passengers more space and provide more entrances.
Delays of up to an hour occurred.