Some long-haul Metra riders get fare break
The long commute remains, but some Metra riders in the railroad's outermost communities will get a break on fares as the agency consolidates certain zones next week.
The move isn't permanent. Instead, Metra will test the new program for a year as one of a series of fare structure changes aimed at increasing riders.
Other ideas expected to be rolled out later include a one-day pass and rush-hour pricing.
Effective Sunday, zones will be capped at 45 miles from downtown Chicago. Zones K through M will be merged into Zone J, which means a price cut for about 1 percent of riders. This includes Zone K stations in Kenosha, Antioch, McHenry and Woodstock and Zone M in Harvard.
A monthly pass to and from Chicago's Loop costs $290 for Zone K and $319 for zone M. Those will drop to $275.50.
A second pilot project starting Sunday reassigns the zones for seven stations on the Metra Electric Line and one station on the Rock Island Line. The plan is to charge fares that are consistent with the distance to downtown.
Later this year, Metra will introduce a one-day pass between any two zones that will cost twice the price of a one-way ticket. The pass will only be available through the Ventra app, which is being upgraded this year.
Planners said the revisions would simplify logistics for passengers, have potential to attract new riders and received approval from riders in a 2017 survey.
In a worst-case scenario, planners had estimated revenues could decrease by up to $500,000 if the changes aren't popular; that could be offset if 86,250 trips are added annually.
Metra has been studying its fare shake-up for months with assistance from Four Nines Technologies, which has a $315,000 contract with the railroad.