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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Metra eyes $5.7 million in cost reductions for 2016 budget


Metra yesterday announced a series of cost-cutting measures that would trim its 2016 annual budget by $5.7 million.

One such measure involves eliminating six management positions and furloughing 20 seasonal employees, which would save the commuter railroad $1.3 million, according to a Metra press release.

Metra officials also identified a way to increase fuel efficiency by implementing new diesel locomotive technologies. This in turn would save the agency $900,000 in the 2016 budget, they said.

The agency could also cut $700,000 from the budget by expanding its car rehabilitation programs and replacing older Metra Electric cars with new Metra Electric Highliners.

These cuts are in addition to the $7.8 million in reductions the agency achieved in last year's budget and nearly $6 million of recurring budget savings found in years prior, Metra officials said.

Meanwhile, Metra's planned fare increase for 2016 "has yet to be determined." The agency previously released a 10-year projection for fare increases which initially estimated that 2016 fares would jump by 5 percent.

"If we can find ways to avoid higher fares, we will do it," said Metra Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno. "At this point, everything is on the table. Our goal is and always will be to continue to provide a safe and efficient transit option for our customers throughout the Chicago area."

In its 2015 budget, the railroad raised all fares by an average of 10.8 percent. Revenue generated by the increase is being spent on positive train control implementation and Metra's $2.4 billion fleet modernization plan.