Metra Riders Could Face New Fare Hike

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Metra2Many Metra riders could be facing another fare increase this February, just one year after digging deep for the biggest fare hike in the commuter rail line’s history.

Metra’s board is expected to vote Friday on a recommendation to raise the price of the popular 10-ride tickets about 11 percent, the Tribune has learned.

That would mean an increase ranging from $2.75 to $9.25 per 10-ride ticket, depending on the distance.

If approved, the increase would deprive 10-ride ticket buyers of the discount traditionally associated with the ticket. Currently, 10-ride tickets cost the equivalent of nine rides.

Word of the possible increase did not set well with riders Thursday evening.

Student Satya Shah, 24, of Rogers Park, said that if the price goes up, he’ll have to consider taking the CTA from Rogers Park to downtown, even though Metra is closer to his home.

“It’s going to hurt the wallet,” he said of an increase. “If it works out to be cheaper, I’ll take the CTA.”

Customers now pay anywhere from $24.75 per 10-ride ticket for close-in Metra zones to $83.25 for the farthest communities.

Ten-ride ticket users account for about 22 percent of Metra’s ridership. Customers who use monthly passes — about 57 percent of Metra’s riders — and those who buy single tickets would not see their fares increase.

Metra’s staff estimates the fare increase would produce $8.3 million in 2013 to help meet the agency’s capital needs. Those include system improvements, maintenance and equipment.

Unveiling a proposed 2013 budget totaling $713.5 million last month, Metra officials warned that they would consider “scenarios” for raising fares up to 10 percent but did not specify any options.

Friday’s recommendation comes as a result of discussions among board members and Metra staff, officials said.

Spokesman Michael Gillis said Thursday that the agency wants to use the $8.3 million in additional revenue as a match to obtain federal dollars for capital needs.

Metra needs about $7.4 billion over the next 10 years to keep the commuter rail line in what officials call a “state of good repair.”

Board members contacted Thursday said they expected to have a thorough discussion of the fare increase Friday before taking action.

If the board approves the increase Friday, Metra still would need to hold a series of hearings to get public comment before the increase would get final adoption. That could come as early as Metra’s Dec. 14 meeting.

Arlene Mulder, who represents suburban Cook County on the board, said she had not decided whether she would support the increase.

“I feel we need to cover our costs, but I know a lot of people who are on extraordinarily tight budgets now,” said Mulder, who also is the mayor of Arlington Heights. “We can’t lose sight of that.”

James LaBelle, who represents Lake County, said he supported increasing the price of a 10-ride ticket to cover the cost of 91/2 rides.

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