Skepticism, criticism, advice and a few compliments greeted Metra officials holding hearings on a proposed fare increase.
The agency will vote on its 2016 budget next week with proposed hikes averaging 3.6 percent for one-way tickets, 3.2 percent for 10-ride passes and 1.3 percent for monthly pass holders, depending on the length of the commute.
"You run a decent system," BNSF Line regular and Aurora resident Henry Treftz said during a Wednesday forum at Union Station. "I'd even be fine with a 4 percent fare increase. (But) I'm going to make a few requests."
Treftz asked Metra to pressure Amtrak to improve the "Third World experience" at Union Station.
"I want to feel safe in the station," Treftz said, describing switch failures, roof leaks and diesel fumes "that set off car smoke detectors."
"You've got to use your leverage to get them to fix it," he said.
One rider faulted Metra for not using the plastic Ventra fare cards offered by Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority. The smartphone Ventra app Metra is introducing to purchase fares isn't helpful for people who can't afford the devices, one rider said.
Chairman Martin Oberman responded that it is complicated and expensive to piggyback on the Ventra card because Metra is an open system where people can walk onto trains. The CTA has turnstiles at stations.
"It would be an enormous capital investment," Oberman said.
Charles Paidock of the transit group Citizens Taking Action said the agency needed to offer more if it was asking more.
"One thing passengers want above all is reliable service," Paidock said.
Metra raised fares by an average 10.8 percent in February.
The agency has unavoidable capital expenses, such as an automatic train braking system required by Congress, administrators said.