CHICAGO (STMW) — Irritated commuters rushed Tuesday to buy Metra tickets before fare hikes averaging 25 percent go into effect Wednesday, but they couldn’t buy more than a month’s worth of discounted 10-ride passes, thanks to a Metra policy designed to prevent stockpiling.

“I don’t think it’s right,” Leslie Pilkington, 56, said as she prepared to fork out an extra $15 for 10 rides between Elgin and her downtown job. “If the tickets didn’t expire at the end of February, I would have bought lots more.”

Metra says the fare increase is necessary to plug a $53.6 million budget gap and to fund infrastructure improvements.

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One-way fares within the city from downtown increase from $2.50 to $3 Wednesday, while 10-ride tickets increase from $20 to $27 and monthly tickets go from $63.45 to $85.50.

One-way fares from downtown to inner-ring suburbs go from $4 to $4.75; 10-ride tickets go from $32.30 to $42.75; and monthly tickets increase from $102.60 to $135.25.

From downtown to the farthest outlying towns one-way fares will go from $8.50 to $9.25; 10-ride tickets will go from $68.45 to $83.25; and monthly tickets will go from $217.35 to $263.50.

In the past, 10-ride tickets were good for a year. But all tickets sold between November 11 and Tuesday expire Feb. 29. Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said in previous years customers had “stockpiled” the passes before price rises came into effect but “we couldn’t afford that this year.”

From Wednesday, the higher-priced 10-ride tickets will again be valid for a year, he said.

Commuters lining up to buy passes at Union Station Tuesday were frustrated but resigned to the changes.

“It’s to be expected,” Law student Kristen Serna, 26, said as she waited to buy passes for her ride between Grayslake and downtown. “Nobody likes to pay more, but there are things that bother me more in the world.”

Mike Maxwell, 30, was unhappy to see his monthly ticket increase from $63 to $86, but he said, “It’s still way cheaper than putting gas in my car, so I’ll just have to deal with it.”

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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