Metra board approves fare hike, fourth consecutive year of increased fares
The increase comes after last year’s hike, which cost yearlong commuters an extra $141 annually for their monthly passes. Metra officials have not ruled out further fare hikes or service cuts.
The Metra board has decided to raise ticket fares for next year as part of its 2018 budget. This marks the fourth year in a row Metra has raised its ticket prices. But despite the increases in fares, Metra also announced service cuts and the possibility of even more fare hikes next year, citing a lack of revenue from Illinois state government.
Commuters will have to shell out more for less. Monthly passes will go up by $9 to $12.50, depending on the length of the trip, according to the Chicago Tribune. Ten-ride tickets will go up between $4.25 and $7.75, and adult and reduced-fare one-way tickets will go up 25 cents in each zone, according to the Tribune.
The fare hike is set to take effect Feb. 1, 2018. And Metra will be shutting down five weekday trains and combining two semi-express trains, according to the Tribune. Two Saturday round trips and one Sunday round trip will also be eliminated from the Milwaukee District North line.
In February 2017, Metra raised its fares on average 5.8 percent, costing regular commuters with monthly passes an extra $141 annually.
When Metra laid out its 10-year plan in 2014, it announced a fare schedule that saw increases in 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, in 2018, commuters were supposed to get a reprieve from the annual fare hikes.
But that didn’t come to pass.
Instead the agency is planning to make commuters pay more for less, as service cuts are a major possibility in the upcoming year and in the future. Metra is right that there has been a $76 million reduction in state funding to the transit agencies, including Metra. That reduction includes a new 2 percent handling fee that will cost the agencies $24 million.
And Metra, along with the other transit agencies, will also lose $30 million from a 10 percent reduction in Illinois’ Public Transportation Fund. The agencies will also lose $16.5 million in state reimbursement for discounted fares, and will have an additional $5.5 million in debt costs incurred by the Regional Transportation Authority, according to the Tribune.
However, Metra is not blameless. The transit agency has ignored its own fiscal problems, and it already has raised rates several times. In 2015, it raised fares nearly 11 percent on average, and in 2016 fares went up a further 2 percent on average.
But its payroll has been rapidly growing.
From 2012 to 2016, Metra payroll grew 32 percent, and overtime went up 47 percent, according to the Tribune. Metra officials say they have implemented a hiring freeze, but real savings remain to be seen.
Commuters paying more for lower-quality service is outrageous. But unfortunately, it’s not unexpected, thanks in part to Metra’s inability to properly budget.