Metra cracks down on fare evasion

CHICAGO (WLS) -- If you commuted by Metra Friday morning, you may have noticed a flier on your seat.

The leaflet reminded riders to pay their fares, and was aimed at those who try to cheat the system by zone jumping.

Zone jumping is when people purchase a ticket for a shorter trip that's cheaper than the one they're actually riding.

Metra is hoping to close a $4-million dip in anticipated revenues from 2019.

"It's really an effort by Metra to do a better job collecting fares owed to us," said Michael Gillis-Metra Spokesman.

To avoid being removed from the train, Metra urged all riders to pay with a paper or mobile ticket, an app or cash on board.

Metra admitted conductors occasionally miss collecting fares, especially during busy times.

"We are going to supplement the efforts of our conductors to verify fare collection with police officers checking fares occasionally," said Gillis.

The use of police may be intimidating for some riders, but not all.

"It does add some security as well even if their purpose is to collect fares. I always feel comfortable with police around so I would not be opposed to it.," said Martha Duerst, Metra rider.

"It could be annoying for a lot of passengers, but I think it's the right thing to do to get the correct fares," said Michael Pudlow, Metra rider.

Some riders were clearly annoyed with the flier and took their complaints to social media, calling Metra's efforts a waste of paper. Others said the commuter train should focus on other things, like timely trains.

Metra does not have a good estimate on how much money it loses from uncollected fares. However, officials believe the new effort to collect fares is more cost effective than changing the system to reflect riders tapping a starting point and an end point; a custom fare would then be determined.

"A lot of other commuter railroads use that, but that requires a major million dollar investment," said Gillis.

Metra said it will be a month or so before it begins using police officers to help collect fares. This will not occur on every train; rather, it will be done sporadically.
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