Fare Hike, Service Cuts Coming on Metra Lines

Fare hikes and service cuts are on the horizon for Metra riders as part of the agency's 2018 budget. 

The budget, which was approved on Friday, checks in at just under $800 million for the new year. Fare increases and service cuts will be used to address a $45 million funding gap, according to the agency, and a capital budget of nearly $200 million was also approved. 

The rate hike is Metra’s fourth price increase in four years.

"Folks say this is too much of an increase in fares, (but) none of us want to see fares go up," Metra board member Ken Koehler said. "If they want to ride on safe and dependable trains, this is part of it." 

Under the plan, monthly passes, which are popular with suburban commuters, would increase from $9 to $12.50, depending on the zone. 

One-way tickets will increase in cost by 25 cents, and 10-ride rickets will increase from $4.25 to $7.75, depending on the zone the customer purchases tickets in. 

Weekend passes would go from $8 to $10, but for the first time would include Friday nights. Currently weekend passes are only valid on Saturdays and Sundays, with some exceptions for holiday travel during the year. 

In addition to the fare hikes, service cuts are coming for four lines, including the North Central Service, SouthWest Service, and Rock Island trains. Weekday trains will be curtailed or eliminated on all three lines, with service cuts officially coming in February. 

Weekend trains will also be trimmed from the schedule of the Milwaukee District North Line, according to the agency. According to a press release, the cuts mark the first time that services have been cut to close a funding deficit in the agency's budget. 

“The current situation is unsustainable, and threatens the future viability of the important service Metra provides,” Metra Chairman Norman Carlson said in a statement. “With the proper amount of sustained public investment, we can create a system with a long and bright future. It is clearly in the interest of the citizens of northeast Illinois for Metra to do so.”

According to the agency, they would need to spend $1.2 billion annually to achieve and maintain a "state of good repair" on the system of railways. The state has come far short of providing those funds to the agency, according to board members, and another fare increase could come if funding from the state doesn't increase. 

"If we don't get some relief from the state on that two percent fee, we are going to have to look at raising the costs again mid-year," Metra board member Stephen Palmer said. 

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