Some Metra Administrators, Staff Get Free Take-Home Cars

CHICAGO (CBS) — Metra is asking riders to dig deeper in their pockets. Fares could go up as much as 20 percent next year. There’s also talk of service cuts, but there’s no talk of eliminating a major perk for some of the agency’s administrators and staff – free take-home cars.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on who’s driving for free.

Metra spends more than $2 million a year a on its company cars. Most of the 91 vehicles in the fleet are police cars and pool cars that are used by the staff when needed.

But according to a recent memo to the Metra Executive Director Alex Clifford, there are 20 administrators and staff who can take home company cars 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“This is cronyism at its worst. This is good old boy politics that has to come to an end,” said State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), a frequent critic of Metra.

Franks said the perk costs the agency nearly $500,000 a year.

It’s money that Metra is shelling out when there’s talk of cutting service and raising fares 20% in 2012 to address a $100 million deficit.

“It’s not right. So, our fare hike is paying for their ride home? Who’s paying for our ride home?” said Metra commuter Trey Smith.

“In this economy, it’s not fair,” said commuter Terri Norris. “They shouldn’t be entitled to have cars. Cars should be cut from the budget.

But Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said, “It’s really not considered a perk. It’s considered something that is an asset to help in an emergency response.”

“The reason that they have 24/7 access is really to keep the system running and operating smoothly, so we don’t have delays,” she added.

Pardonnet said those on the special list for take-home cars are engineers, mechanics, and transportation supervisors who are on-call 24 hours a day.

“They get cars so they can respond to problems on the railroad systemwide,” Pardonnet said.

Metra provides service in six counties. There are 18 rail yards where employees report to work and it’s not uncommon to have pool cars parked in the lots.

Asked why Metra couldn’t have those employees drive their own personal cars to the nearest rail yard and pick up a company car to use on duty, Pardonnet said, “We would have to look at the logistics of that, given where people live in the districts, in the areas they serve.”

“That is something I’m sure that could and would be considered,” she added. “I mean, we are looking at every budget cut possible and if that is something that would save money and still give us the same level of customer service and response, then that would be something we would look at.”

The Metra board presented its proposed budget two weeks ago. The final budget will be presented in October. It’s expected to include a fare hike for commuters. We’ll see if company cars for top administrators have been cut.

  • Rational

    Come on, Channel 2. Where is your common sense ? Just because a career politician like State Rep. Jack Franks says “This is cronyism at its worst. This is good old boy politics that has to come to an end,”, do you actually have to present the article to mirror that falsehood when the truth is that the cards are given to actual workers for a legitimate purpose ?…”engineers, mechanics, and transportation supervisors who are on-call 24 hours a day”…

    Shame on you. There are enough real problems to report on. Don’t invent problems in the name of journalism.

  • Chivi

    Stop the BS!!!!!!!!!! Every day is the same BS!! Bad management!!!! Get rid of the old and in with the new!!!

  • Bruno Behrend


    What a load of poo!

    First, the entire governmental structure of Illinois is to have an ever growing number of useless jobs filled by a mostly mediocre cadre of so-called public servants, all of whom vie for more jobs for more of the friends and family plan of state-mandated greed and pension piggery.

    Before we address the needless perk of free cars, let’s address the uselessness of the Metra Police, which is merely another drain of taxpayer money that convert security to play policemen.

    The same goes for the army of Forest Preserve Police. Gut them all. Send each and everyone of them a pink slip.

    As for the “need” of a car because some Metra people are “on call,” that’s pretty lame. Many private sector employees are on call, and don’t get the perk of free cars. In case you hadn’t noticed, the state, the city, and nearly every other big, fat, worthless IL bureaucracy, bankrupt.

    When informed of the governmental class gaining needless perks (like cars), we can always count on some apologist for public employee greed to whine that all these absurd baubles are “necessary,” and we need to stop scapegoating public sector employees.

    Wrong. We need to start laying them off en masse. If their services are useful, then we can make the ones that we don’t lay off work harder.

    I now await some one’s outrage at my views, and another post of crocodile tears about how mean I am to our army of public servants. You want ‘shared sacrifice?’ Fine. Start giving up your perks and unsustainable pensions.

    IL taxpayers are “sacrificed” up every orifice already.

    Voters. What does it take for you to get mad, get to the voting booth, and support candidates to cut cut cut until all budgets are balanced.

  • agenandy

    Since it is important people who need the cars, it’s one thing. IF it’s those who are just abusing it, that’s another. Just a matter of Metra finding out if the perk is being abused or used properly.

  • Just Serious Consideration

    Hey “Rational”, sounds like you’re one of those people who were issued a ticket by or arrested previously by the metra police. Seems like those engineers and supervisors need to have them to respond to emergencies.

  • Just Serious Consideration

    That was meant for “Bruno Behrand” not Rational. I agree with Rational completely.

  • IL Seniors Adjust as Free Transit Ends | Local Voter News

    […] For 76-calendar year-old retired Chicago school instructor Marion Harris and her husband, a law offering them no cost bus rides helped them stay lively. Other individuals, like 70-year-outdated Mary Rzepka, say they didn’t ask for the perk and will not head that it really is gone. Chicago IL voters – Yahoo! Information Research Results Metra is asking riders to dig deeper in their pockets. Fares could go up as significantly as twenty percent up coming 12 months. There’s also talk of service cuts, but there’s no chat of eliminating a main perk for some of the agency’s administrators and personnel – free consider-home vehicles. Chicago IL voters – Yahoo! News Research Benefits […]

  • Fed up 2

    Considering the comment by Mr. Franks, Isnt he one of the idiots that has driven this state to where we are. Tax and spend. The numbers seem skewed 25K per car fpr the 20 people who are expected to respond immediately to any type of service interuption. I dont think so. These people complaining are the same group that would shred Metra management when their train is late and wonder where the responsible manager was. I would assume that the people with the cars are not the cronies that just fill space at the agency but are key people that make the necessary decisions when things go wrong due to weather or freight issues.

  • Metra To Crack Down On Missed Fare Collections « CBS Chicago

    […] RELATED: Some Metra Administrators, Staff Get Free Take-Home Cars […]

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