News & Reviews News Wire Metra takes STB to court over CPKC decision

Metra takes STB to court over CPKC decision

By David Lassen | May 17, 2023

Appeals court asked to send decision back to board to ‘correct its legal deficiencies’

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Unit tank-car train and commuter train meet
A Canadian Pacific train meets an outbound Metra Milwaukee North line train at Lake Forest, Ill., on May 1, 2021. Metra is asking a U.S. appeals court to force the Surface Transportation Board to review its approval of the CPKC merger. David Lassen

WASHINGTON — Chicago commuter operator Metra has become the third entity to sue over the Surface Transportation Board’s approval of the Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger.

In a single-page filing with the board, Metra notified the STB today (Wednesday, May 17) that it had initiated a suit on May 12 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, seeking review of the March 15 decision creating Canadian Pacific Kansas City. Metra’s court filing calls the board’s decision “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, an otherwise not in accordance with law or supported by substantial evidence.” It offers no specifics.

The language is identical to earlier suits filed by Union Pacific [see “Union Pacific challenges STB’s Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger decision,” Trains News Wire, May 5, 2023] and the Coalition to Stop CPKC, a group of Chicago suburbs [see “Chicago suburbs sue over CPKC merger,” News Wire, May 12, 2023].

The suit asks that the appeals court send the matter back to the STB “to correct its legal deficiencies.”

A Metra spokesman said this afternoon the commuter operator was not yet prepared to comment on the suit. STB spokesman Michael Booth said the board cannot comment on pending litigation.

Metra strongly opposed the merger, contending it will have a negative effect on commuter operations on two lines shared with CPKC, and sought significant conditions to mitigate those impacts. None were granted.

Perhaps most significantly, the commuter agency asked for dispatching control over the two shared routes. They are currently dispatched by the freight railroad in an agreement dating to the demise of the former owner, the Milwaukee Road. In a post-merger press conference, STB Chairman Martin J. Oberman said the board did not order the change “because we do not think the data requires it or supports it, and it would cause us, in effect, to break a contract.” [see “Metra, Chicago suburbs see few concerns addressed …,” News Wire, March 15, 2023].

He said the board’s plan for seven years of merger oversight, and extensive requirements to report operating metrics, will allow the STB to track the interaction between Metra and CPKC, “and if it turns out there are meaningful problems for Metra, that [dispatching] possibility, as well as the other conditions that were asked for, remain on the table.” Those other conditions included an extensive list of infrastructure improvements.

Metra’s opposition reflects, among other issues, disagreement with traffic modeling used by CP and KCS in their merger application. Metra’s own modeling indicated post-merger traffic growth would “break the rail system” on a single-track portion of the direct CPKC route between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Kansas City, leading trains to be rerouted through Chicago, to the detriment of the Metra Milwaukee-North and Milwaukee-West lines. [see “Metra opposes CP-KCS merger …,” News Wire, March 17, 2022]. (Metra eventually corrected some figures in that March filing, although CP and KCS would still say the Metra modeling was “irredeemably flawed.”) CPKC disagreed with Metra’s contention, and the STB ultimately sided with the freight railroads.

6 thoughts on “Metra takes STB to court over CPKC decision

  1. When CPKC starts adding more trains, there could be a meeting in a coffee shop where train operations persons from Metra and CPKC figure it out. No need for a frivolous and futile lawsuit.

  2. STB left the doors open for 7 years to make sure CPKC doesn’t rock the cradle. How can you file suit for something that hasn’t even happened yet?

    That is like suing your employer because you think they are going to lay you off 7 years before you retire.

    If METRA wants dispatch rights, then make CPKC an offer they can’t refuse or renegotiate the contract. If there is no proof a CPKC dispatcher held a METRA for reasons other than safety, then be still and let the trains flow.

  3. METRA called the Surf Boatd decision “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, an otherwise not in accordance with law or supported by substantial evidence.” As the article mentions, METRA, through their lawyers, offered no specifics.

    Basically, METRA paid their lawyers well to use $20.00 words to disagree without saying anything.

    Someone wiser than us wrote,
    “It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.”

    1. “If you wish to study a granfalloon/ Peel the skin off a toy balloon.”

      —- Kurt Vonnegut, in “Cat’s Cradle”

  4. Do METRA and the west surburban NIMBYs really think that Martin Oberman is going to roll over and meet them half way? If so they have a rude surprise coming at them.

    1. As a Metra customer and an Illinois taxpayer (at least for now) what I want to know is who is paying for all these high-priced lawyers. Especially given Metra’s and RTA’s precarious finances.

      History shows the federal courts to be very reluctant to overturn decisions of regulatory agencies.

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