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updated: 6/8/2012 5:18 PM

NATO summit over but effects still felt at Metra

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  • Extra security and lost fares cost Metra $800,000 during the NATO summit.

    Extra security and lost fares cost Metra $800,000 during the NATO summit.
    Scott Sanders/Daily Herald file photo


There's no way to recoup the $800,000 in lost revenues and expenses the NATO summit cost Metra, officials said Friday.

The two-day gathering brought world leaders and protesters to Chicago's McCormick Place in May. Because of U.S. Secret Service safety concerns over railway lines running under McCormick Place, Metra shut down several stations on its Electric Line and beefed up security on trains.

The measures resulted in fewer riders on the Electric Line and overall on Metra as many companies encouraged employees to work from home May 25 and May 28. That led to $400,000 in fare losses, Chief Financial Officer Tom Farmer said.

Extra costs including police and outside security forces tallied $600,000. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, however, will provide $200,000 in compensation.

"There's no way to make it up," Metra CEO Alex Clifford said at a Friday meeting. "The federal government will reimburse the $200,000; the rest will be absorbed within the favorable variance we have to date."

Metra revenues as of April are $4.4 million higher than budget expectations, the greatest boost coming from fares. The agency raised rates by up to 30 percent Feb. 1. Operating expenses were about $4.6 million lower than projected, partly due to the mild winter.

During the summit, Metra imposed restrictions on passengers including prohibiting most liquids, backpacks and food. Passengers underwent bag checks and screening at many stations.

In a related financial matter, Metra directors Friday authorized Clifford to enter into contracts prior to board approval to buy diesel fuel, natural gas and electricity. Pricing is so volatile and unpredictable that delays in locking in cheap rates can mean losing bargains, Clifford said.

However, Metra Chairman Larry Huggins noted that the agency had run into problems before when it gave its previous director too much power. "I don't believe in micromanaging anyone," Huggins said, but added this was the last ordinance taking power away from the board that he wanted to see.

Former CEO Phil Pagano committed suicide amid a financial scandal.

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