Monday, November 19, 2012

Metra increases a fare, after saying there’d be no fare increases this year

I can’t say I’m surprised at the outrage some people might be feeling these days toward Metra, the commuter railroad system, for the increase in ticket prices it approved just a couple of days ago.

This increase comes just a couple of weeks after Metra officials told the Cook County Board (which reviews mass transit budgets) that they were preparing a budget for 2013 that calls for no fare hikes. Prices would remain the same, except when they don’t – it seems.

NOW FOR THOSE of you who are confused, keep in mind that Metra technically didn’t  break its word. They kept themselves within the “letter of the law,” so to speak, with regards to fares for the upcoming year.

For the basic fare for those people who ride Metra trains will remain the same. As will the prices charged for those people who purchase monthly passes to allow them to come and go every day without having to make a routine out of shelling out cash!

What Metra’s board increased was the cost of what they call a 10-ride ticket, one that gives you up to 10 rides on a Metra train for a period of up to six months.

The current fare is based on the cost of nine one-way rides, with the 10th being a freebie on account of the fact that the commuter is coughing up their money up front. Metra gets theirs, and there’s always the chance you could lose a ticket with a ride or two remaining – meaning that they get a financial perk in the process.

BUT COME FEBRUARY, people are going to have to pay for the full 10 rides, which means the only bonus is that you won’t have to wait in the ticket line every single time you want to catch a train.

I honestly believe the fact that they were getting cash up front was a financial plus for Metra that they should have respected. Particularly since it was just this past year that all Metra fares went up – including the cost of the 10-ride tickets (it used to be that you paid the price of eight one-way rides for a 10-ride).

So excuse me for being a little less than sympathetic to Metra for slipping this increase through when their board met Friday.

And yes, I should disclose the fact that I am an occasional Metra train rider who always tries to have a 10-ride ticket on me so that I can just board a train without having to worry about paying for the ride.

CURRENTLY, I’M ON a ticket with three rides remaining. So there is a self-interest I am expressing in this particular rant of a commentary.

Keep in mind that this isn’t just a suburban issue (which is probably how some city dwellers want to view Metra since they probably use the CTA trains and buses for public commutes).

Go out to a neighborhood like Hyde Park where the elevated trains convenience skip by, and it becomes those Metra Electric trains (the ones that are getting new cars that finally will have lavatory facilities) that provide the direct connection to downtown Chicago – along with neighborhoods such as South Shore and South Chicago.

Swing out to the Southwest Side, and it becomes those Rock Island line trains that can take Beverly or Morgan Park neighborhood residents deeper into the city without having to drive a car. It's not just people coming in from Kenosha, Wis. (although there are a few of them as well).

THIS MOVE – WHICH Metra officials say is meant to raise $8.3 million to be used for repairs and maintenance – is going to have an impact on many people,

Which makes me convinced I’m not the only one who feels a bit of disgust – even if an increased cost of a Metra 10-ride is still probably cheaper than the cost of parking one’s car at a downtown garage!

But that’s a rant to be written for another day.


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