Metra Board Approves Steep Fare Increase

UPDATED 11/11/11 11:36 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Metra board has approved the largest fare increase in the agency’s history.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, board members approved the increase, and the agency’s 2012 budget, at a Friday morning meeting at Metra headquarters, 547 W. Jackson Blvd.

Although public comment has been overwhelmingly against the average 25.1 percent increase, there wasn’t been much of it. A Metra representative told WBBM Newsradio that a total of 43 people commented at eight public hearings. Another 250 commented by e-mail, fax or U.S. mail.

Many echoed Sandra Martin, a rider who attended last week’s hearing in Homewood, called the projected fare increases “insane” and asked, “Where exactly am I supposed to get that 30 percent?”

Nonetheless, the Metra rep said few, if any, changes are expected in the fare increases as outlined a month ago.

Under the new fare schedule, which will take effect Feb. 1, 10-ride ticket prices will increase by 30 percent, monthly passes by 29.4 percent and one-way tickets 15.7 percent. In addition, 10-ride tickets will be refundable for only three months from the date of purchase, while one-ride tickets will be good for only 14 days instead of a year, and will not be refundable at all.

The Metra budget includes $686.8 million for operations and a $244.1 capital program.

Chief executive officer Alex Clifford told riders at hearings in Homewood and at Metra headquarters that he feels their pain. Nonetheless, he said the fare hikes are essential to balancing the agency’s 2012 budget.

“You cannot kick the can down the road when it comes to balancing your operations and your expenses and revenues,” Clifford said. “You simply cannot do this because the problem only compounds itself.”

He blames the need for the hefty increase on a variety of factors, including fuel prices that have risen substantially in the past year, and additional money to pay for snow removal in what is expected to be a bitter winter.

Clifford also blames the need for the increase on the management policies of his late predecessor, Phil Pagano, who stepped in front of a Metra train and committed suicide last year after board members found out that he had improperly taken $475,000 in vacation pay over the course of 11 years.

The Metra board has also placed strict limits on purchases of 10-ride tickets, to minimize hoarding. Those changes take effect immediately.

The last time fares increased, by 10 percent in 2008, the sales of 10-ride tickets nearly doubled in the weeks immediately preceding the hike. Ten-ride tickets purchased between Saturday and Jan. 31 of next year will only be valid through Feb. 29.

After that, 10-ride tickets will still be honored for a year under the new fare structure, but Clifford has said he does not want to see hoarding happen again.

Metra has increased fares fewer than 10 times in its 28-year history. Clifford said that, beginning in 2013, he hopes to tie any increases in fares to the cost of living.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports


  • Jim

    I say they cut their pay to equal the hike…25.1% cut to all the inept people running Metra!

    • Larry

      I always find it amusing when people expect executives in a company to diminish the pay they are accustomed to receiving, rather than increasing the price they charge for service. That is not how it works in ANY business. When costs go up, the price of products or services go up. You sound like these occupy nuts!

      • abe

        you sound like a typical dumb sheeple. ppl like you make great workers (slaves).

  • j

    Larry, you must be a corporate exec.

    • Larry

      No, I’m just a little guy making less than $50,000 a year. But I respect people who have done well for themselves and would like to do the same for myself. But I don’t think the wealthy should be shot down just because they have more than I do. These idiot occupy protesters don’t think like that. They want their debts erased and they want what the rich guy has, before spending many years working toward it.

      • kerry

        laryy you don’t sound like you ride metra. i will have an increase of 500.00 a year just to get to work, and i like yourself make less than 50,000 a year. this is a sad day. the only one who makes out is the person that ran metra and threw himself infront of the train. at least he got to spend my money and have fun. now metra has taken my fun money away.

      • Jim

        Problem is that it is not what you know in this state it is WHO you know. If these were all Harvard graduates and they provided value to the service then it would be OK. The fact of the matter is that they don’t know what they are doing and are blowing through money like it’s water while worrying only about their pay/benefits.

  • Steve Bayne

    This iswhat the voters voted for and they will do it again!

  • Chicago Daily Observer » Blog Archive » Metra board approves 25 percent fare hike

    […] approves fare hikes [Chicago Tribune]Metra Approves Steep Fare Increase [CBS Chicago]Metra OKs big fare hike [Crains]Metra leaders unanimously agree to raise fares [Daily […]

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  • Pat

    Kerry you are not fully correct. The people in charge of Metra NOW will also benefit from our under $50k salaries paying them. It’s not fair that we have to take a HUGE hit when all our paychecks are either staying the same or taking a dive. I myself have to dip into my grocery money to make up the Metra UNFAIR Fare Hike !!!!!!
    I WAS at one of the hearings, and GET THIS!!! Metra said that the service cuts were off the table and the reason was cause it wasn’t going to make that much of a difference in their budget……….

  • JJ Smith

    It is now cheaper to drive from zone H or I then take the train. By the time you pay parking and a train ticket, gas is better. It is also faster to avoid the tollway and not pay the wasted tollway authority a toll for the toll roads.

  • bob

    Food for thought, as the agency double-digit fare hikes.

    New Metra CEO Clifford will be paid $252,500 a year under a three-year contract.

    33 out of 84 of Metra’s department heads, directors and senior directors make more than $100,000 annually.

    According to a Freedom of Information Act request I filed this summer, wages range from $155,000 for the head of human relations to $100,000 for the chief of police.

    And, 29 out of 84 high-ranking employees make between $90,000 and $100,000. That’s 74 percent of senior staff members earning between $90,000 and $155,000.

  • kidd

    JJ Smith is correct. If you do the math, the cost to drive is about equivalent to the proposed fare hikes. Take into account you still have to pay to park where you catch the Metra and it’s a wash. So how does the board justify running an overcrowded rail system so inefficiently that it is just as economical to drive? it can’t be the fuel costs because they apply equally to drivers. The only variable is the overpaid and undertalented management.

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