Metra wants to hear its customers’ opinions on potential changes to fare structure and ticket options at several open houses in February.
“What we are hoping to do is to modify our fare structure and ticket options in ways that work well for Metra’s customers and also help Metra make the best use of available resources and capacity,” Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said in a statement.
The meetings’ end goal is to create a flexible fare structure that allows Metra to segment and price markets differently, give the company more flexibility to increase fare revenue while providing control over ridership impacts including fare changes, encourage off-peak travel and better use off-peak capacity, and redefine zones to define premium destinations and address inconsistencies, according to a release from Metra.
The effort started in the summer of 2016, when Metra hired California-based Four Nines Technologies to study the rail system’s fare structure, determine opportunities for changes and develop a model to help Metra evaluate the potential changes.
Four Nines Technologies’ work included conducting a survey of Metra customers in the spring of 2017 and holding a workshop with the Metra Board of Directors last month, where board members selected several proposals to present to customers and the public for their feedback before further board consideration.
The proposed changes would:
• Introduce a day pass for travel between any two zones, available on the Ventra App, priced at twice the cost of a One-Way Ticket. The day pass will simplify fare payment, save time and encourage use of the Ventra App.
• Discount non-rush hour trips to/from downtown stations, perhaps by 50 cents to $1 per one-way trip initially, for riders using One-Way or 10-Ride tickets. Discounting non-rush hour fares will allow market-specific fare changes and encourage customers to ride off-peak to alleviate peak loads.
• Redefine the inner zones so Zone A covers only the six downtown stations in Chicago’s Central Business District (Chicago Union Station, Ogilvie, LaSalle Street, Millennium, Van Buren Street and Museum Campus/11th Street); other stations currently in Zone A would be assigned to Zone B: 27th Street, McCormick Place, 18th Street, 35th Street, Western Avenue/BNSF, Halsted, Kedzie, Western Avenue/Milwaukee District/NCS and Clybourn. (Less than one percent of Metra riders currently travel between stations in Zone A.)
Restructuring Zone B will allow riders to take longer trips within Chicago for the price of a one-zone fare, including travel to downtown stations on off-peak trains. Defining downtown stations as premium destinations will allow market-specific fare changes and encourage customers to travel on off-peak trains to alleviate peak loads.
• Conduct a phased consolidation of Zones K, L and M into Zone J, thereby capping fares for trips that exceed 45 miles (about one percent of Metra riders come from those zones). The new Zone J would include 10 stations: Round Lake Beach, Lake Villa, Antioch, Long Lake, Ingleside, Fox Lake, Kenosha, McHenry, Woodstock and Harvard. Consolidating Zones J, K, L, and M will cap the fare to stations in those zones and potentially mitigate ridership declines for trips that are currently the most expensive for riders at stations that have less service.
• Reassign some stations to different zones to adjust perceived inconsistencies between lines where nearby stations are in different zones.
• On the Milwaukee District North Line, move Forest Glen from Zone C to Zone B.
• On the North Central Service, move Rosemont from D to C.
• On the SouthWest Service, move Oak Lawn from D to C and Palos Park from E to D.
• On the Metra Electric Blue Island Branch, move Ashland, Racine, West Pullman, Stewart Ridge and State Street from D to C.
• On the Metra Electric mainline, move 83rd Street and 87th Street from C to B.
• On the Rock Island Beverly Branch, move 123rd Street from D to C.
• Station reassignments will provide more similar fares for customers who board at stations on different lines, but with similar distances to downtown, and may encourage more local use of these stations.
• Gradually correct the charge for each additional zone of travel so the charges are consistent. While the charge is 50 cents for most additional zones, others are 25 cents, 75 cents or $1.25. Consistent pricing will make it easier for customers to understand and determine the fare for a trip.
No changes will be adopted until Metra analyzes potential cost changes and ensures they do not unfairly affect those riders who are financially vulnerable.
The public comment process, part of the analysis, will include a combination of public open houses throughout the Metra service area and opportunities to review the recommendations online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/MetraFares. Comments also can be provided via email to email@example.com.
Additional information can be found at metrarail.com.
Anyone with a disability who wants to participate in an open house is asked to notify Metra of their needs in advance. Requests for services can be made by calling 312-322-8037.
Open houses will be held at these times, dates and locations:
Kane County Government Center, 719 Batavia Ave., Geneva, 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 1
Crystal Lake City Hall, 100 W. Woodstock St., Crystal Lake, 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 5
Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet, 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 19
Libertyville Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Ave.: 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 13
Additional times and locations can be found on Metra’s website.