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Metra Board approves budget, fare increases

No service cuts to McHenry County

CHICAGO – Metra is cutting some services and increasing the price of several ticket options in order to close a $45 million funding gap.

The Metra Board on Friday approved a $797.2 million operating budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Board members say the shortfalls in funding for both operating and capital needs are due to a lack of local, state and federal money.

“The current situation is unsustainable, and threatens the future viability of the important service Metra provides,” Metra Board Chairman Norman Carlson said in a news release. “With the proper amount of sustained public investment, we can create a system with a long and bright future. It is clearly in the interest of the citizens of northeast Illinois for Metra to do so.” 

The sales taxes and state aid that fund about half of Metra’s operating budget and the local, state and federal grants that pay for nearly all of its capital budget are not keeping up with the rising costs and replacement and renovation needs of the company’s aging train system.

Though rates are going up, Metra trains are arriving on time more than 95 percent of the time. Metra in October posted an on-time performance rate of 95.7 percent, exceeding its goal for the 32nd consecutive month. Metra’s goal is to operate at least 95 percent of its trains on time.

The closest service lines to McHenry County that will see service cuts are the North Central line, which ends in Antioch, and the Milwaukee District North Line, which ends in Fox Lake.

Metra announced with the budget agreement that a small number of weekday trains will be curtailed or eliminated on the North Central Service, SouthWest Service and Rock Island Line, and some weekend trains will be cut on the Milwaukee District North Line.

This marks the first time in the agency’s history that service has been cut to close a funding deficit.

Metra’s 2018 budget includes a combination of fare increases and expense cuts. All fare increases will take effect on Feb. 1.

Rate changes are as follows:

• The price of one-way tickets will increase by 25 cents in all zones (a 2.3 percent to 6.7 percent increase).

• The price of 10-ride tickets will increase $4.25 to $7.75 (an 8 percent to 12.6 percent increase) depending on the zone.

• Monthly passes will increase $9 to $12.50 (4.1 percent to 8.4 percent) depending on the zone.

• Weekend passes will increase to $10, up from $8.

• The price of reduced fare tickets and passes also will increase.

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