Fares spike for Chicago’s commuter rail

The fare hikes Metra has been threatening for months finally went into effect, raising ticket prices anywhere from 21% to 35%

Transportation Management News Chicago Tribune February 03, 2012
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Chicago’s commuter rail line’s new fare hikes kicked in this week, and prices have skyrocketed as much as 35%, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Many commuters are displeased but say they have no choice, citing gasoline costs and the high price of parking in downtown Chicago.

Metra says the overall ticket hike is 25%, but this figure is somewhat misleading because it averages the 15.7% increase in one-way tickets with much bigger jumps for 10-ride tickets and monthly passes.

The vast majority of riders who use monthly passes and 10-ride tickets will see increases averaging 30%. For close-in suburban and Chicago customers, it is even more.

The fare hikes vary widely because Metra fares are distance based. Riders in the nearest zones will be hit the hardest, with 35% increases in monthly passes and 10-ride tickets.Fares to the most distant — and least used — zones will rise 21 to 24%.

Before approving the fare hike Nov. 11, Metra's board of directors spent months debating service cuts and other options. Finally, board members decided not to cut service.

Metra CEO and Executive Director Alex Clifford, who spent most of his first year on the job warning of the hike, said the increase is necessary to "put Metra on a stable financial course."

The additional revenue will help close a $53.6 million budget gap in 2012, officials said. That shortfall had been estimated to be as high as $100 million.

Metra, which provides 300,000 trips a day, blames spiking diesel fuel prices, the demands of meeting new federal regulations, higher insurance premiums and other rising costs.

Officials said they also promise to stop using capital money for operations. Over the last two years, about $60 million in money intended for long-term infrastructure and equipment was diverted for day-to-day needs.

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