Metra board approves fare hikes

November 13, 2009 (CHICAGO) Most weekday fares are not affected, but the transit agency says it must increase several other fares so its budget can be balanced.

Metra riders will be paying more starting in February. The increases are steep in many cases, but there is some good news: most weekday commuters should be spared.

Unlike Metra, the CTA and Pace this week worked out a deal with the state that basically burrows money from other sources to avoid fare increases. Nevertheless, in a board meeting this morning, Metra officials voted to raise some fares.

Metra, like all of the transit agencies, says it has been hurt by the free rides for seniors program. There has also been a drop in Metra sales tax revenues and ridership due to job losses and the recession.

"Faced with dire economic conditions and a $60 million to $70 million shortfall, based on an original projection of what would be available in operating revenue, we have proposed a balanced budget," said Carole Doris, Metra Board Chairman.

"The rates are already high enough. They need to figure out how to really use the money wisely and make the right decisions. It's too much. It's ridiculous," Jamel Ivory Penn said.

In February, riders who purchase one-way tickets will see fares go up 6 percent, or anywhere from 10 to 25 cents. For the first time in close to 20 years, unlimited weekend passes will go up from $5 to $7. Buying tickets onboard trains will increase from $2 dollars to $3.

Metra is however giving its regular commuters a break.

"Normally I would complain but the economy is pretty bad. They got to do what they got to do as long as the train keeps running," Daniel Deuerling said.

"It's going to hurt a lot of people, but the economy. You got to work with it. You got to do whatever you got to do," Vince Deleon said.

In some cases, one-way tickets will go up as much as 45 cents.

Officials say in order to help the budget, they will also freeze management salaries.

There will be no service cuts.

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