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Rail News: Passenger Rail
Metra OKs 2018 budget with fare hikes, service cuts
Metra's board has approved a 2018 operating budget that includes fare increases and service cuts to help close a $45 million funding gap.
Under the $797 million budget, the cost of a one-way ticket will increase 25 cents in all zones, beginning in February. Service on a number of weekday trains will be curtailed or eliminated on the North Central Service, SouthWest Service and Rock Island Line routes.
The service reduction marks the first time in the railroad's history that service has been cut to close a funding deficit, Metra officials said in a press release.
The board also approved a $196.8 million capital budget that covers one-sixth of Metra's estimated capital needs.
The shortfalls in the capital and operating budgets "point to a growing problem with local, state and federal subsidies for public transportation," Metra officials said.
Sales taxes and state aid fund about half of Metra's operating budget, while local, state and federal grants pay for nearly all of its capital budget. Revenue from these sources is not keeping up with rising costs and the aging system's replacement and renovation needs, according to Metra.
Normal cost increases account for about $30 million of the railroad's $45 million operating budget. About $23 million of that growth stems from labor and fringe benefits, while the cost of spare parts and other materials to maintain Metra's aging fleet adds $2 million.
Moreover, the cost to operate a federally mandated positive train control system will cost about $2 million annually. The new system is slated to come online in 2018.
Last month, Metra Chairman Norman Carlson said the current funding situation "threatens the future viability of the important service Metra provides."
Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.