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Metra's board has approved a $900 million operating budget and $261 million capital program for 2022.
The budget includes an experimental project that will test a new $6 day pass valid for unlimited rides within three zones, Metra officials said in a press release. Intended to be a more affordable option for shorter commuter trips, the pass will be tested in a year-long pilot program alongside the current $10 day pass.
The 10-ride ticket will now expire after 90 days rather than one year, and the one-way ticket will be reduced from 90 days to two weeks, beginning Feb. 1, 2022.
The budget does not include a fare increase because estimates are conservative regarding predicted 2022 ridership, starting the year at about 25% and ending at 35% of pre-pandemic levels, Metra officials said. Fare and other system aspects are estimated to generate $146.4 million in revenue next year. About $295 million of the budget represents federal COVID relief funding for operations.
Meanwhile, the capital program includes funding for upgrades to rail cars and locomotives, bridges and track, signal and electrical communication equipment, facilities, stations and other miscellaneous activities.
“There’s still a great deal of uncertainty nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, but our job is to be there for our riders,” said Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “[We are] adopting a budget with a conservative outlook to ridership growth and using federal relief funding so that we can ramp up our service in 2022.”
Metra's board also recently approved a $70 million contract with VenTek International to install 650 new ticket vending machines at every station. The contract includes five years of support and maintenance.