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Local

Metra fares to increase Feb. 1 'to close $45 million funding gap'

Service cuts to some lines begin Feb. 5

Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com
Metra employees board an inbound train to Chicago at the Cary station Tuesday, January 7, 2014. Snow and ice-packed railroad switches along with the number of hours railroad employees can work are causing delays, cancellations and headaches for Metra commuters.
Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com Metra employees board an inbound train to Chicago at the Cary station Tuesday, January 7, 2014. Snow and ice-packed railroad switches along with the number of hours railroad employees can work are causing delays, cancellations and headaches for Metra commuters.

The fare increase Metra officials voted on in November of last year will go into effect Feb. 1.

As part of the commuter rail system's $797.2 million operating budget for 2018, several fare increases are about to take effect, according to a news release from Metra.

Those increases include:

• The price of one-way tickets increasing by 25 cents in all zones (a 2.3 percent to 6.7 percent increase depending on the zone).

• The price of 10-ride tickets increasing from $4.25 to $7.75 (8 percent to 12.6 percent) depending on the zone.

• The price of monthly passes increasing from $9 to $12.50 (4.1 percent to 8.4 percent) depending on the zone. Monthly tickets are available for purchase in advance, with sales beginning on the 20th of each month

• The price of the weekend pass, which allows unlimited rides throughout the Metra system on both Saturday and Sunday, increasing to $10 from $8.

• The price of some reduced fare tickets and passes increasing.

Additionally, a number of weekday trains will be curtailed or eliminated on the North Central Service, SouthWest Service and Rock Island Line and weekend trains will be cut on the Milwaukee District North Line, starting Feb. 5.

This has caused some train runs to be eliminated, some train departure times to be changed, some trains to be renumbered and others to have changed or added station stops.

"Customers are advised to check the new schedules to understand how their commute may be affected," the release stated.

New schedules are available online at metrarail.com and paper copies will be available at Metra’s downtown stations next week.

Metra officials agreed upon the changes in November in an effort to close a $45 million funding gap. The company's new budget included about $17 million in fare increases, about $3 million in trims in service and a variety of other changes.

The board also approved a 2018 capital budget totaling $196.8 million, only one-sixth of Metra’s estimated annual need for the maintenance and renewal of its capital assets, according to the release.

“We are raising fares because everything we did last year will cost more to do this year,” Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said. “And we are raising fares because the public subsidies that would normally help us cover those rising costs have been cut. We are simply using these funds to cover the increased costs of operating the railroad.”

Board members said the shortfalls in funding for both operating and capital needs point to a growing problem with local, state and federal subsidies for public transportation, while voting to approve the 2018 budget.

"The sales taxes and state aid that fund about half of Metra’s operating budget and the local, state and federal grants that pay for nearly all of its capital budget are not keeping up with rising costs and the aging system’s replacement and renovation needs," the release stated.

Visit metrarail.com for more information about fare increases and service cuts.

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