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Metra to increase fares and reduce service in 2018 to address budget gap

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With a lack of state funding, the future viability of Chicago’s commuter rail system is coming under threat

Curbed Chicago Flickr pool/Chris Wilson

Facing a $45 million shortfall, Chicagoland’s Metra regional rail network voted on Friday to approve a 2018 budget that calls for increasing fare prices as well as a reducing service. While price increases are hardly new for Metra—the transit agency raised fares for the past four consecutive years—the 2018 plan represents the first time that service has been reduced for the sole purpose of closing an operating deficit.

According to Metra officials, the system’s roughly 300,000 weekday riders can expect to face the following fare hikes starting in February:

  • The price of One-Way Tickets will increase by 25 cents in all zones (a 2.3 percent to 6.7 percent increase)
  • The price of 10-Ride Tickets will increase from $4.25 to $7.75 (8 percent to 12.6 percent) depending on the zone
  • The price of Monthly Passes will increase from $9 to $12.50 (4.1 percent to 8.4 percent) depending on the zone
  • The price of Weekend Passes will increase to $10 from $8
  • The price of Reduced Fare tickets and passes will also increase a yet-to-be-revealed amount

Also starting in February, five of the 691 weekday trains will either be scaled back or eliminated on the North Central line, SouthWest line, and Rock Island line. Meanwhile, a few weekend trains on the Milwaukee District North line will also be cut.

Citing a lack of state funding, Metra warns that additional hikes and service reductions are possible in the future. Higher operating costs are also partly to blame, reported the Chicago Tribune. Metra’s payroll expenses rose 32 percent between 2012 and 2016 with overtime up 47 percent.