Metra proposes fare hikes for 4th consecutive year

Metra proposes fare hikes for 4th consecutive year

Blaming Illinois state budget cuts, Metra considers raising fares in 2018, despite previous fare schedule.

Commuters should get ready to feel the pinch, again.

For the fourth consecutive year, Metra is proposing to raise passenger fares. Metra proposed raising fares for one-way, monthly, 10-ride and weekend passes, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Daily Herald reported that the price of fares could go up as much as 12.6 percent and possible service cuts could accompany the rate hikes. Metra originally planned not to raise fares in 2018 as part of its 10-year fare schedule released in 2014.

The commuter rail system’s board will vote on the proposal sometime in fall 2017. Metra blames cuts in state funding and decreased sales tax revenue as the primary factors prompting the fare hikes.

The Tribune explained that Metra, along with the state’s two other transit agencies, Chicago Transit Authority and Pace, are looking at $76 million in state funding cuts, according to a spokeswoman from the Regional Transportation Authority.

Some $24 million in cuts are due to a new 2 percent handling fee the state is charging local governments for managing sales tax revenue, a part of the transit agencies’ funding, according to the Tribune. And all three agencies will see funding cuts from the Public Transportation Fund and decreased state reimbursement for reduced fares, the Tribune reports. The transit agencies also face reduced sales tax revenue because of increased e-commerce and Illinois’ poor economic growth.

The last time Metra raised fares was in February 2017, when the commuter rail system increased its pass prices by an average of 5.8 percent. For yearlong commuters purchasing monthly passes, this constituted an extra $141 annually.

The state’s cuts in funding to the transit agencies come despite the fact that lawmakers in Springfield passed a massive permanent income tax hike in July, and a budget with millions in pork barrel spending.

However, Metra is by no means blameless.

While the commuter rail agency has cried poor for years, it has ignored its own fiscal problems and financial mismanagement, and repeatedly passed the cost to commuters. Metra raised fares on commuters by 2 percent in 2016 and by 11 percent in 2015.

Commuters have every right to feel cheated. First, Springfield raised taxes on residents without addressing structural problems that divert too much money away from essential services. Then, blaming budget cuts, state-funded transit agencies like Metra – which have no scruples about squeezing commuters – raise fares, even when they previously said they wouldn’t. And despite those fare increases, services might still be cut.

The lack of concern for commuters is galling.

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