On November 11, the Metra Board of Directors approved a new budget that will result in a two percent fare increase on all tickets.
Next year’s budget totals at $945.5 million, covering $759.8 million in operating costs and $185.7 million in capital expenditures.
A consequence of the new budget will be fare increases for Metra users beginning on February 1, 2016. Monthly passes will increase by $2.50, 10-ride tickets will increase by $1.75, and one-way tickets will increase by $0.25. The fare increases will affect all Metra lines regardless of the number of zones in each line.
According to a report released by Metra, operating expenses are projected to grow by $40.1 million in the upcoming year, including obligated wage and benefit increases, higher maintenance costs, additional police surveillance, new equipment, and utility price augmentations. However, due to lower fuel prices and expected efficiencies, the operating costs will grow only $15.1 million from the previous year.
The $185.7 million budget for capital expenditures will account for locomotive work, structural replacements, Positive Train Control (PTC) related work, facility and equipment costs, station and parking improvements, and support activities. Approximately $106.4 million of the capital expenditure budget will be dedicated to Metra’s modernization plan that aims to upgrade railcars, locomotives, and PTC.
First-year Eleanor Richardson did not express concern with the price increases. “I take the Metra home all the time, but a two percent fare raise isn’t that bad. I don’t mind if they’re doing it to improve conditions or pay the workers more. I’d be happy to pay for stuff like that.” However, first-year Michael Ferguson expressed dissatisfaction with the change. “For me, it would definitely be negative because I’m living on a student budget; the Metra is how I get from home to school and back for breaks, and how I’ll probably travel if I get an internship in the city.”