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Metra, Pace Approve Fare Increases

(CBS) -- Higher fares are just down the road for Metra and many Pace riders.

The increases are tucked into 2016 budgets that the Metra and Pace boards approved unanimously in separate votes Wednesday.

A spokesman said that the Metra increases that take effect Feb. 1 will be modest, and unlike previous Metra fare hikes are flat-rate. The price of monthly passes will increase by $2.50, while those who use 10-ride tickets will pay $1.75 more. Full-fare one-ride tickets will cost 25 cents more.

Those who use monthly Metra reduced-fare passes will pay $1.25 more, while 10-ride ticket prices will increase by 75 cents. One-way reduced fares are unaffected.


The increase in commuter rail fares is tucked into a $759.8 million Metra operating budget, although its intent is to put the $6.5 million it expects to raise from the fare increase toward its capital program, including the federally-mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) system, which will stop a train automatically in time to avoid an accident if an engineer fails to observe speed restrictions or obstructions ahead.

Metra hopes to complete its PTC installation by the end of 2018.

Full-fare Pace riders who use cash as of Jan. 1 will pay $2, an increase of 25 cents, while those eligible for reduced fares will pay $1, an additional 15 cents. The increase will not apply to riders who use Ventra cards; about 20 percent of Pace riders use cash, and spokesman Patrick Wilmot said Pace hopes the two-tier fare system will prompt holdouts to get Ventra cards.

The Pace board approved a $228 million operating budget that includes purchase of Wi-Fi-equipped buses and expanded service on I-90 express routes and other lines, mainly in the Aurora area and western Cook County.

Neither proposed fare increase was particularly controversial during budget hearings. Wilmot says that no one spoke against the Pace increase at eight public hearings (one person spoke in favor of it), while a total of 44 people spoke at the eight Metra hearings.

Both agencies' budgets anticipate no change in state funding levels -- a leap of faith given the budget impasse in Springfield, but one endorsed by the parent Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). The CTA's budget is balanced on a similar premise, but anticipates no 2016 fare increase.

Wilmot said that any reduction in funding, and particularly the $8.5 million state subsidy for federally-mandated paratransit service, would require Pace to seek a mid-year fare hike.

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