Metra ticket prices go up, expire earlier

FILE

January 31, 2012 3:46:13 AM PST
Public transportation is about to get more expensive for commuters who rely on the Metra rail system in the Chicago area.

Starting Wednesday, ticket prices will soar as much as 35-percent, with an average of 25-percent increase overall for tickets. Plus, one-way tickets will expire after just 14 days instead of a year.

    Price breakdown:
  • one-way tickets will increase an average of 15.7 percent across all fare zones
  • 10-ride tickets will go up an average of 30 percent
  • and monthly passes will increase an average of 29.4 percent.
  • Reduced fare: one-way tickets will increase an average of 10.3 percent, reduced fare 10-ride tickets will increase an average of 18.9 percent and reduced fare monthly passes will go up an average of 10.8 percent.

    Policy changes:
  • One-way tickets will only be valid for 14 days, instead of a year, and they will no longer be refundable.
  • The 10-ride ticket discount will be reduced so that riders will get 10 rides for the price of nine, rather than 10 for the price of eight.
  • Ten-ride tickets will remain valid for a year, but will only be refundable within three months of the date of purchase. For refunds on a partially used ticket, the cost of a one-way ticket from the specific zone-pair combination will be deducted for each ride taken. After the 9th ride is used, the ticket will no longer be refundable. Refunds are subject to a $5 handling fee per transaction.
  • Monthly passes will be valid through the end of the month (instead of noon on the first day of the following month) and refunds will be subject to a $5 fee per transaction.
  • The Metra subsidy for the Link-Up and PlusBus tickets will be eliminated and riders will have to pay the full costs of those passes. The new price of the tickets is being worked out with the CTA and Pace.
  • Young adult fares on weekends and holidays will be eliminated.

Passengers react to rate hikes

Ridership is expected to remain high despite the sizable fare increases. Many passengers say they feel like they have no choice.

"Forty extra dollars a month, other things I could have bought with it. But you have to work downtown so what can you do?" said Carla Martens, Metra passenger.

"It's a huge increase. It's too bad because it's going to be prohibitive," said Ellen Kaplan, Metra passenger.

"They've got you. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't," said Simone Leduc, Metra passenger.

The agency maintains the increases are necessary to help stabilize Metra's finances. Even though they've had several other fare increases in the last few years, Metra has still been operating at a deficit, using money out of the capital budget for operations.

Metra spokesperson Robert Calrton says, "we asked riders and they preferred raising fares to cutting services."

"They've been putting it off for a long time and there's a lot of need," said Rick Williams, Metra passenger. "What are you going to? It beats driving."

Still, many commuters say the increases are going to be a jolt to their budgets.

"I think they could have looked at it a different way. I would have preferred them going up a little bit every year as opposed to one big lump sum," said Glenda Clark, Metra passenger.

Metra trains carry about 300,000 passengers a day. Officials blame budget deficits on rising gas prices, higher insurance costs and expensive federal regulations that have gone into effect recently. The board has promised future fare increases will be more regular but less expensive.


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