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With Fare Hike Kicking In, Metra Closes Window On Multi-Ride Ticket Hoarders

credit: Steve Hardy/CBS Digital Chicago

credit: Steve Hardy/CBS Digital Chicago

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Commuters who seek to cushion the blow from Metra fare increases try to hoard 10-ride tickets, which are good for a year.  But if you want to do it this time you only had until midnight Friday.

If you buy them after midnight tonight, and the tickets are good only through Feb. 29. Tickets will be stamped  “Valid through 2/29/12.”

Word of the change was enough for a part-time Metra rider, named Neil, to drop everything at work, run to Union Station and stock up.  He hoped to buy as many as eight 10-ride tickets.

“That will probably get me about six months’ worth,” he said.

Burt and Gitta Kessler passed through Union Station as signs were posted, and jumped into the ticket line.

“It gives us more flexibility,” said Burt Kessler, a retiree who, with his wife, volunteers as an usher at Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts.

So how many did they buy?

“Two,” they said, in near unison.  “We splurged.”

The signage confused Jolene Smyth, of Arlington Heights, but when she was advised she still had time to buy a 10-ride ticket at the old rate, she did so.

Nonetheless, Smyth said she understands why Metra is imposing the limits.

“They have a business to run, too,” she said.

Metra CEO Alex Clifford said that letting riders hoard would have cost the agency $3 million it can ill afford to lose.

Clifford based that figure on Metra’s experience preceding fare increases in 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2008. In the weeks before the most recent increase, in February 2008, the sales of 10-ride tickets increased by 67 percent.

Those who over-purchase won’t lose any money, however.  Clifford said that after Feb. 29, Metra will continue to offer refunds on one-ride and 10-ride tickets purchased today or before.

The old policy allowed refunds for up to six months on 10-ride tickets and up to a year on one-ride tickets.