Reporting Bob Roberts
CHICAGO (CBS) — Metra will sock those who use its 10-ride tickets with an 11 percent fare increase on Feb. 1, but those who use single-ride tickets or monthly passes will be spared a fare hike.
Metra’s board voted 8-2 to impose the increase, although at least one board member refused to even call it that.
“I don’t think it’s viewed as a fare increase. In fact, it’s not going to affect 75 percent of our riders,” said Paul Darley, who represents DuPage County on the Metra board, preferring to call it “an adjustment to a policy.”
In effect, Metra is eliminating the discount that it has always offered those who use 10-ride tickets.
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The increase is expected to generate $8.4 million for Metra, most of which will go into its capital fund to be used as matching money for state and federal grants, Metra CEO Alex Clifford said.
In return for the increase, Metra is promising cleaner trains. Complaints about dirt and rubbish aboard Metra trains has increased in the past year.
Commuter rail carriers across the country historically provided discounts for multi-ride tickets, but Clifford said once Metra eliminates its discount, only Philadelphia will still offer discounted 10-ride tickets.
The discount that Metra’s monthly pass holders get will not be affected by Friday’s action.
In its financial forecasts for 2014 and 2015, Metra is projecting fare increases of 4.9 and 5.4 percent, respectively. The 2014 increase would be voted upon at this time next year, and the 2015 increase two years from now.
The 2013 Metra budget, including the increase in 10-ride ticket prices, was submitted Thursday to the Regional Transportation Authority, as required by law.
Public hearings will take place at seven locations, including Metra headquarters at 547 W. Jackson Blvd., in Chicago, 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 11.
The RTA board will have the final say on agency budgets in a vote next month.