Metra fare hike, service cuts coming in 2018

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Metra riders will be digging a little deeper to pay for the fare hike approved Friday by the transit agency's board. Along with steeper fares, there will be more service cuts when it all goes into effect next February.

To hear it from Metra's board and top staff at Friday's board meeting, they can do little else but heap more pain on riders to keep the trains running. Their reasoning is that Springfield and, by extension, people don't realize how expensive it is to keep Metra moving

It will cost 25 cents more for each Metra ride come next February. It will be the fourth fare increase in four years and one of six fare increases in the last seven years.

The Metra deficit is growing to perhaps $20 million or more by the end of year due to monumental maintenance costs for an aging fleet, reduced state subsidies and lower sales tax revenue.

For commuters it means:
- reduction in the 10-ride ticket discount
- increase in monthly passes of 4.1 to 8.4 percent depending on zone
- 25-percent increase in the weekend pass from $8 to $10
- bump-up in reduced fare rates

Moreover, 11 scheduled trains will be curtailed or eliminated on the North Central Service, Southwest Service and the Rock Island Line.

Scheduled maintenance will be cut back next year by $12 million to balance the budget, which will only exacerbate Metra's challenges.

The pain promises to continue to grow for train riders. The board said Friday afternoon that the deficit is expected to continue to increase. There is only so much cutting that they can do and unless there is a new funding formula from Springfield, there is a chance there will be another increase about halfway through 2018.
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