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Metra board approves fare hikes

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Evanston commuters heading to downtown Chicago on Metra trains will pay more to get there starting Feb. 1.

The Metra board today approved fare hikes expected to increase overall fare revenue by 5.8 percent. Metra officials say the increase will generate $16.1 million to help pay for capital improvement projects.

One-way tickets from any of the three Metra stations in Evanston to the Ogilvie Transportation Center will increase 5 percent — from $5 to $5.25.

Ten-ride tickets will go up 6.1 percent — from $44.50 to $47.25. And monthly passes will rise 8.5 percent — from $138 to $149.75.

The way the fare increases were structured by the board — ranging from 25 cents on a one-way ticket to $11.75 on a monthly pass — means riders with short commutes will face bigger percentage increases than riders with longer commutes.

The commuter rail system's budget will provide for an average 3 percent increase in employee wages and cover increases in other costs ranging from health care to training.

Metra officials say the extra $16.1 million in revenue from the fare increase will make a tiny dent in what they describe as a nearly $12 billion backlog of capital projects. The agency says it has funding to carry about only about a quarter of the work that's needed each year.

The rail system saw a ridership decrease of 2 percent during the first eight months of 2016 and is projecting a 0.8 percent ridership decline next year.

Fare revenue provides about half of Metra's annual budget, with the bulk of the rest coming from a regional sales tax.

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