The Metra board of directors approved the release of a preliminary 2012 budget that calls for a fare increase that averages about 25 percent across all fare types. The budget plan now will be the subject of a series of public hearings before the board votes on a final budget on Nov. 11.
Metra’s proposed 2012 budget includes $686.8 million for operations and a $244.1 million capital program.
The agency has been warning for months that it faces a budget deficit next year due to a spike in diesel fuel prices, the demands of meeting new federal regulations, higher insurance premiums and a variety of other rising costs. Meanwhile, proceeds from the regional transportation sales tax have fallen short of expectations due to the faltering economy.
Additionally, Metra has decided to stop diverting funds from its capital budget, meant for infrastructure improvements, to plug holes in its operating budget. That practice helped Metra get through tough times until now, but simply is not sustainable given its critical capital needs.
Metra was able to reduce its deficit by $17.5 million through a variety of steps, including locking in the price of 75 percent of its fuel needs, making administrative cuts and finding other operational efficiencies. Those actions reduced the size of the needed fare increase by 7 percentage points. However, there still is a projected budget gap of $53.6 million that will need to be covered by a fare increase.
Under the fare increase proposal, one-way tickets would increase an average of 15.7 percent across all fare zones. Ten-ride tickets would go up an average of 30 percent, and monthly passes would increase an average of 29.4 percent. Reduced fare one-way tickets would increase an average of 10.3 percent, reduced fare ten-ride tickets would increase an average of 18.9 percent and reduced fare monthly passes would go up an average of 10.8 percent. Taken together, the overall average increase is 25.1 percent.
In addition to the fare increases, several fare policies would change. One-way tickets would only be valid for 14 days, instead of a year, and they would no longer be refundable. The ten-ride ticket discount would be reduced so that riders would get 10 rides for the price of nine, rather than 10 for the price of eight. Ten-ride tickets would remain valid for a year, but would only be refundable within three months of the date of purchase. The 10-ride tickets could be refunded on a pro-rated basis, but there would be a $5 handling fee. Monthly passes would be valid through the end of the month (instead of noon on the first weekday of the following month) and refunds would be subject to a $10 fee.
The Metra subsidy for the Link-Up and PlusBus tickets would be eliminated and riders would have to pay the full costs of those passes. Young adult fares on weekends and holidays also would be eliminated.
The fare increase and other changes would begin on Feb. 1, 2012.
Public hearings on Metra’s 2012 budget will be held on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3 at locations throughout the six-county region. Copies of the budget will be available for review online at www.metrarail.com and will be distributed to municipalities and libraries across the region.
Following the public comment period, the Metra board will vote on a final budget at its Nov. 11 meeting. The budget will then be forwarded to the Regional Transportation Authority, which will vote on the region’s transportation budget in December.
Click here to review the proposed 2012 Budget Fare Tables.
Click here to review the proposed 2012 Budget Book.
Click here to review the October 2011 presentation to the board of directors.