CHICAGO – Metra riders won't pay more for a ride in 2020, as the agency announced Sept. 11 that it won't raise fares next year.
In a news release, Metra also announced that, thanks to the new state capital program, it will budget $2.6 billion for capital improvements over the next five years, with a priority on railcars, locomotives, stations, bridges and service improvements.
“We are happy to give our customers a double dose of good news this budget season,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski in the news release. “First, we have been able to keep our operating expenses in check and will not need to raise fares to cover higher operating costs. Second, thanks to Springfield stepping up, we do not need to raise fares for capital needs – in fact, we now have a significant infusion of capital dollars to help us begin to attack our backlog of capital work.”
The release states that Metra searched for ways to control or reduce its operating costs to head off the need for a fare increase. This year it identified about $5 million in efficiencies. In addition, it expects to save about $7 million by not filling vacancies and about $9 million by reducing overtime and other miscellaneous expenses.
Those $21 million in reductions will help offset an expected $26 million increase in operating expenses next year, including about $7 million in new operating expenses associated with Positive Train Control (PTC), a federally mandated safety system, and about $19 million in labor and various other operating expenses, according to the release.
That means that, preliminarily, Metra expects its overall operating budget to increase by $5 million next year, from $822 million in 2019 to $827 million in 2020. Higher revenues from the regional transportation sales tax, which funds a little more than half of Metra’s operating budget, will cover that $5 million and no fare increase will be needed, the release stated.