Metra riders who buy 10-ride passes will pay from $2.75 to $9.25 more today following a fare increase approved late last year.
The 11 percent jump should net Metra about $8 million more a year, with $2 million going to operations and $6 million allocated for capital improvements.
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"I think it's horrible, especially with the economy the way it is," said Lupe Cuellar while waiting for a UP Northwest Line train at the Arlington Heights station Thursday. "Didn't they just raise it last year?"
Metra leaders raised fares on 10-ride and monthly passes by 29 percent to 30 percent in February 2012 to offset a shortfall in the operating budget, which includes salaries and supplies.
This year's hit will affect about 25 percent of riders and brings Metra in line with other commuter rail agencies across that country that don't give discounts on 10-ride passes, officials said. The previous ticket offered 10 rides for the price of nine.
"I think with the big fare increase a year ago, the legitimate criticism was that we shouldn't have waited eight years to do a big increase," said Metra board Director Jack Schaffer of Cary, who added that he uses 10-ride passes.
"People understand we have to do small increases from time to time; this falls into that category."
The new fare structure varies depending on how far you're traveling. A 10-ride pass between Union Station and Lisle that cost $47.25 Thursday now is priced at $52.50. A pass good for trips from Chicago to Harvard that cost $83.25 now is $92.50.
The fare hike caught several riders by surprise.
"I didn't realize that," said Downers Grove commuter Jake Dewar, who had just bought a 10-ride pass Thursday. "I'm not for it."
Sarah Heflin, a Downers Grove resident who takes the BNSF Line to Chicago, said the change is hard on her because she doesn't go to the city to work but to volunteer at the Art Institute of Chicago.
"It's a big deal," Heflin said, adding she's not sure what's she's getting for the money. "The conditions on the train are pretty archaic."
Metra Director Jim LaBelle said he would have favored a small across-the-board increase rather than focusing on the 10-ride pass.
Going forward, "the board has adopted a policy of making sure we look at how fares line up every year to make sure they're fair and market-based and competitive and in line with value provided to the riders," LaBelle said.
Metra planners estimate there could be a revenue shortfall of $16.4 million in 2014 and $13.6 million in 2015. That would equate to fare increases of 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively, to bridge the gap. However, officials stressed that those numbers are preliminary and would require more study as well as a board vote. "Metra is not currently proposing or advocating fare increases," a budget summary stated.