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10/9/2017



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Metra mulls service cuts, fare hikes to cover budget shortfall


Metra faces a $45 million deficit in its proposed 2018 operating budget.
Photo – Metra

Metra is considering reducing service and raising fares to close a $45 million deficit in its proposed 2018 operating budget.

Under the budget proposal, a small number of weekday trains would be eliminated on the North Central Service, SouthWest Service and Rock Island Line. Metra also would remove six weekend trains on the Milwaukee District North Line.

Metra executives also proposed increasing the cost of a one-way ticket by 25 cents in all zones. If that increase is approved, riders who use Metra 30 times a year would pay about $7.50 more, according to a Metra press release.

The price of a weekend pass would rise from $8 to $10, although a pass would now be valid on Friday nights and all day Saturdays and Sundays.

The fare increases and service cuts stem from rising expenses, a reduction in state aid and low sales tax revenue. The sales taxes and state aid that fund about half of the railroad's operating budget haven't kept up with increased costs, Metra officials said.

"The current situation is unsustainable, and threatens the future viability of the important service Metra provides," said Chairman Norman Carlson. "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."

Normal growth in expenses account for about $30 million of the $45 million deficit for 2018, according to Metra. Part of that growth includes operating the railroad's positive train control system.

The remaining $15 million results from a shortfall in the amount of funding the railroad expects from public sources, Metra officials said. Fares typically cover about half of the railroad's operating costs, with the rest paid by Metra's share of proceeds from a regional transportation sales tax and partial state match.



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