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Metra’s board last week approved a $700 million operating budget and a $386.8 million capital spending plan for 2021.
The operating budget assumes that the Chicago commuter railroad’s ridership will end 2020 at about 20% of its pre-COVID-19 levels and increase to 50% by the end of 2021.
Under this scenario, Metra expects its services will generate about $158 million in fare revenue. With an additional $336 million expected from regional transportation sales taxes and $206 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Metra will have $700 million available to spend in 2021, agency officials said in a press release.
However, Metra's leaders warned that without additional federal COVID-related financial assistance, the agency will need to cut expenses by $70 million next year, including reductions in service.
Meanwhile, the board approved a 2021 capital program with more than half of the funding going toward major projects, including:
The 2021 budget and capital program will now go to the Regional Transportation Authority for approval as part of a consolidated budget for the region’s public transit systems, including the Chicago Transit Authority and Pace bus service.
Also last week, Metra’s board approved an intergovernmental agreement with Cook County, Illinois, to launch a three-year pilot project to boost public transportation on Chicago's south side and in the southern suburbs.
Under the agreement, Metra will reduce its fares on the Electric and Rock Island lines by 50% in January 2021. Cook County will cover the difference between the reduced fares and full fares for three years.