Tanking 10-ride pass purchases led some Metra board directors to wonder if the agency should reconsider a price hike instituted in February.
About 126,642 10-ride passes were sold in February compared to 148,575 in February 2012 -- reflecting a 14.8 percent drop, planner Lynnette Ciavarella told directors.
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"It's a trend we will need to watch," she said, noting that at the same time monthly pass sales grew by 4.4 percent with 97,089 sold in February compared to 92,967 in 2012.
Metra raised 10-ride passes by 11 percent this February.
Passenger revenue in February was $24 million, falling short of budget expectations of $25 million.
"It's troubling to see this decline," Director and outgoing Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder said. "Is there any way we can get more information from former 10-ride users?"
Director Larry Huggins of Chicago said if mistakes had been made, "it might make sense to do a trial and see -- if we go back -- what would be the impact?"
Metra Chairman Brad O'Halloran of Orland Park asked administrators to come back with more data and recommendations on how to reverse the trend at their May meeting.
CEO Alex Clifford pointed out the decline in ridership started in October before the 10-ride increase. He said the agency was working on cost-cutting and marketing strategies to attract more riders.
"It appears to me revenue is down at a greater percentage than ridership," board Director Mike McCoy said. "That's weird when we raised rates."
Metra planners had projected some 10-ride users would fall off because of the increase but also expected the change would generate about $8 million more a year. McCoy asked if the drop matched projections.
"The decline in 10-rides is more than we anticipated," Chief Financial Officer Tom Farmer said.