CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago-area commuters have never seen anything like it. Metra has proposed fare increases averaging 10.8 percent, starting in February, with the guarantee of additional increases every year through 2024.
The February increase would be the second-largest in Metra’s history, second only to the last increase in 2012. Metra Chairman Martin Oberman said his goal is to pay not just for fuel and wage increases, but for 400 new bi-level rail cars, and more than 50 new locomotives to replace engines that are more than 30 years old; and bi-levels that are in some cases 60 years old. He also wants to speed up the process of heavy “mid-life” rehabilitation, which has been constrained by a dearth of capital funding.
Oberman said he expects the immediate reaction to the planned fare hikes to be astonishment, but he said that’s what riders have to expect if they want a safe, clean, and comfortable ride in trains that are not 40 years old or more.
“Am I supposed to say that’s a secret? You know, I mean, it’s just silly. We’re going to tell people this is what it costs. It’s not free. A billion dollars’ worth of rail cars costs money,” Oberman said.