Metra proposes increase in transit fare

Rebecca Savransky, Managing Editor

Metra may be increasing its average fare prices by more than 10 percent next year to help fund its modernization plan and cover other business costs, the organization announced Thursday.

The increase would add 50 cents for a one-way trip from any Evanston Metra Station to Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Center, 500 W. Madison St., raising the cost from $4.25 to $4.75. The 2015 budget, which includes the fare increase, will be voted on by the board on Nov. 14.

The proposed $2.4 billion modernization plan, which the increased fares will help fund, details the organization’s efforts to replace old rail cars. With the extra funds, the agency would purchase new, modern passenger rail cars and locomotives and rehabilitate older engines and trains.

“Folks may love nostalgia, but it makes a powerful statement when our oldest cars date from the Eisenhower administration,” Metra Chairman Martin Oberman said in a news release. “The majority of our rail cars are older than the majority of our daily commuters. While nobody ever likes fare increases, Metra’s fares are significantly lower than our peer railroads in major cities and have not kept pace with inflation.”

The money would also help Metra implement the federally mandated Positive Train Control, a system established to avoid collisions by automatically slowing or stopping trains if crashes are imminent.

Following the plan, the organization would continue to raise fare prices over the next decade.

In the proposed budget, Metra also announced it would bring back a discount on 10-ride tickets, which stopped in 2013, a grace period on the first day of the month for monthly ticket purchasers and an extension on the life of one-way tickets.

The 2015 budget, which includes $749.1 million for operations and $328.9 million for capital needs, will be voted on after public meetings are held to discuss the budget. The new changes would take effect Feb. 1, 2015.

Some funds will likely come from state and federal funding sources in addition to Metra earnings. Metra will pursue additional federal and state funding and devise new financing strategies to cover extra costs.

“We are only asking our customers to pay about 16 percent of the total cost of this program, but that is an important component of our plan,” Oberman said in a news release. “Metra believes that by taking the lead to fund its capital needs through financing – which will largely be paid by Metra riders – we will convince government leaders to step up to the plate to provide the additional needed funding.”

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