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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Metra won't hike fares in 2019

The board agreed that another fare hike would yield just a "fraction of the revenue needed to address large capital funding shortfalls."
Photo – Metra


Instead of raising fares in 2019, Metra board members and executives will spend the next year calling for more state aid and "sounding the alarm" about the impact the lack of such funding has on the Chicago commuter railroad's service levels and state of good repair.

The railroad's board yesterday agreed that another fare hike for capital needs would overburden riders following four consecutive fare increases, Metra officials said in a press release.

Also, an increase in 2019 would yield just a "fraction of the revenue needed to address large capital funding shortfalls," they said.

"We ask our passengers and our elected leaders to join with us to tell our story to members of the state Legislature," said Metra Chairman Norm Carlson. "That story is very simple: Metra needs a sustained capital program to maintain its existing service levels in the 2020s. Otherwise, drastic changes in service levels may be needed to shrink to a size that existing resources can sustain."

In late 2014, Metra unveiled a $2.4 billion plan to modernize rolling stock and install positive train control (PTC). The plan assumed that current state and federal funding sources would cover about $700 million, while Metra financing would provide another $400 million.

The railroad hoped to secure $1.3 billion in new funding for the remainder, most likely from a new state infrastructure program. Illinois has not passed a new infrastructure program since 2009, Metra officials said.

While the plan included projections for fare increases over the next 10 years for financing and regular growth in operating expenses, most of the fare hikes approved since have gone toward capital needs and PTC.

Meanwhile, Metra's board approved allocating $15.6 million from a 2015 fare increase toward the purchase of locomotives.