Metra inks $2.7M in contracts to lobbyist firms
Metra officials say they’ve reduced the cost of the lobbyist firms’ contracts by bringing down monthly retainer costs by 15 percent.
Metra’s board of directors reapproved contracts with six lobbying firms June 21. The lobbying contracts were renewed for five more years and will cost Metra nearly $2.7 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Metra reduced the cost of the lobbying firm contracts, bringing down the cost of monthly retainers by 15 percent, saving an estimated $500,000 over the next five years, Metra spokeswoman Wendy Abrams told the Tribune.
The Tribune explains that Metra has used lobbying firms in the past to attain federal and state funding. Metra claims to need $12 billion over the next decade for maintenance purposes as well as a capital bill in order to fund new projects.
Metra used similar reasoning when it raised fares in February 2017. Ticket prices went up 5.8 percent, marking the third year in a row Metra raised its fares. The annual cost of monthly passes for regular commuters went up $141, yet the increase was estimated to only raise a meager $16 million – only a fraction of the $1.2 billion Metra needed for backlogged capital improvement projects.
Despite clamors for new revenues and serial fare hikes, Metra’s visible actions in recent years have made it hard to sympathize with the commuter rail agency. After raising fares on commuters for a third consecutive year, the Metra board gave outgoing CEO Dan Orseno a $28,000 annual salary raise. And recently, Metra announced plans to replace its classic bench-style seats with newer, less flexible seats, despite negative consumer reactions. In 2015, Metra lost $350 million before depreciation, despite taking more than 81 million passengers on trips.