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Kirk, Durbin Tell Metra to Justify Rate Hike

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Kirk, Durbin Tell Metra to Justify Rate Hike
Mark Kirk
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Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are teaming up again, this time to justify a proposed 30 percent fare increase for Metra riders.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Metra's executive director, Kirk and Durbin asked for an explanation of costs incurred by the train agency, including outside contracts, to show Metra has exhausted all budget reductions before the hiking the fare. 

"We understand the financial challenges facing Metra and other transit agencies around the nation," Kirk and Durbin wrote. "However, we feel the riders of Metra deserve an explanation for many of the costs incurred by the agency."

The nearly 30 percent increase is meant to help close Metra’s annual budget shortfall of $64.7 million, but the senators question certain budget costs such as a six-month, $225,000 fee paid to George Avery Grimes, a consultant being used to help reduce costs.

That contract is under review for an extension, Kirk and Durbin point out, but it's worth about 10 percent of Metra’s 2012 efficiencies and cost reductions. If the service is needed, it should be justified, they said.

"Following the recently discovered activities of Metra’s former executive director, every expenditure needs to be carefully vetted before fare increases or service reductions occur," they wrote.
 

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