CHICAGO (CBS) -- Metra riders appear to be shrugging off the unprecedented series of fare hikes the commuter rail agency unveiled last month.
Those who expected long lines of angry riders to pound on podiums and demand that the 10.8 percent fare increase and yearly fare hikes for 10 years be dropped were wrong. It didn't happen, at least during the hearing at Mundelein village hall, one of four that occurred Wednesday.
Five people spoke in Mundelein, and none offered direct criticism of the 10-year fare increase proposal. Rider Peter Van Dem Otter said Metra should reconsider a proposal to end refunds on unused tickets. He said that could be a hardship on someone who has a monthly pass and is laid off early in the month.
Nearly 60 percent of Metra riders use a monthly pass.
Another rider, James Kelly, of Lake Forest, drove to Mundelein to urge Metra to reconsider plans to increase the penalty for buying a ticket on board from $3 to $5. Instead, he said, it should be dropped to $1 or less.
Kelly said those who are hit with the penalty are first-time or infrequent riders who are unaware of the penalty provision, which is tacked onto the price of a ticket if an agent is on duty.
Each except Kelly said the need for new locomotives and bilevels exists and says the investment Metra hopes to make is warranted.
Metra wants to replace its 400 oldest bilevels and more than 50 aging locomotives over 10 years, financing the purchases in part through bonds that would be financed through the fare hikes. Annual fare hikes would be a first for Metra, which has had fewer than 10 fare increases in the 30-year life of the agency. The 10.8 percent average increase, which would take effect Feb. 1, would be the second-largest ever for Metra.
Additional budget hearings are scheduled 4-7 p.m. Thursday at .the Will County boardroom in Joliet, the Woodstock Village Hall board room, the Clarendon Hills Village Hall board room, and the Metra headquarters' 13th floor board room, adjacent to Union Station.
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