The odds are it will cost you about 30 percent more to buy a Metra monthly pass or 10-ride ticket in February.
Several Metra board directors indicated Thursday they will vote in favor of the agency's 2012 budget Friday, which includes fare hikes but not service reductions.
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"It's not something anybody likes but it has to be done," Director Jack Partelow of Naperville said.
"Personally, I think it's needed to protect the system," Director Mike McCoy of Aurora said. "The amount is pretty drastic, but I think it will pass."
Metra officials blame the increase on previous administrators, saying they kicked the can down the road by using capital funds, intended to pay for equipment, rail infrastructure and system expansion, to subsidize operating budget shortfalls. "We have a railroad to run and we can't do it by pirating from the capital budget," Partelow said. "We have to look to the future."
If approved, it means 10-ride and monthly pass holders will pay 29 percent more if they're traveling from Chicago, which is fare zone A, to suburbs such as Arlington Heights in zone E.
As an example, a 10-ride pass between zones A and E would rise from $36.55 to $47.25, and a monthly pass would go from $116.10 to $149.50. One-way tickets would jump by an average of 16 percent. Short trips between two zones, such as Lisle (zone E) to Naperville (zone F), would increase by 20 percent for one-way tickets and 35 percent for 10-ride and monthly pass holders.
Metra is facing a $53 million deficit in 2012, caused in part by steep diesel fuel costs.
A number of Metra commuters told the Daily Herald through interviews and emails that they objected to such a sudden, steep rate hike and preferred a more gradual approach.
Metra Director Jim LaBelle of Zion found riders did agree with preserving capital dollars. "People uniformly agreed we should use our bit of capital money to invest in maintaining the system.
"While folks aren't necessarily happy with having to pay more, there is also a recognition that there's value being provided particularly compared with other options available," LaBelle added. "The cost of driving is not going down, it's going up."
If approved, the rate hike will go into effect in February.