Metra proposes fare hikes, service cuts

Fare hikes of up to 12.6 percent and possible service cuts could be on track for Metra riders, administrators said Wednesday.

Higher costs for staffing and materials, plus cuts and new fees imposed by the state, are behind the unpleasant news, officials said.

Board directors debated two options. Hearings will be held before any final votes.

The proposal endorsed by the majority of directors would boost 10-ride passes between 8 percent and 12.6 percent, and monthly passes by 4 percent to 8.4 percent. For a passenger traveling from Palatine or Naperville to downtown, a monthly pass would increase by $10.75 or 5.4 percent, and by $6 or 9.5 percent for a 10-ride pass.

The agency is also going to review trains with lower ridership.

Another factor in the agency's budget woes is declining ridership. Although passenger revenues are up by 4 percent through August 2017 compared to last year because of higher ticket prices, trips dropped 781,000 or 1.5 percent.

This February, Metra raised fares by 5.8 percent in 2017, meaning riders paid $2.75 more for a 10-ride ticket and $11.75 more for a monthly pass.

Fares have shot up by about 18.6 percent cumulatively since early 2015. In February 2015, Metra instituted a 10.8 percent average fare increase and in February 2016 hiked prices by about 2 percent.

The increases have covered higher operating expenses, including salaries, and capital needs such as an automatic braking system.

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