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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Metra and funding

    Anyone who has taken Metra and the CTA has to say that Metra is much more reliable, comfortable and faster, rarely has delays—at least M-F.

    I assume  the decline is because of cost and the rates have been going up quickly.

    The Cook County Commissioners, Legislators, city officials–and just about any other official—should be pressing for more funding of Metra, CTA and other public transportation and increase fees/taxing [gas, car purchase, city/state stickers] to get people out of their cars and into public transportation.  Where have all the enviornmental groups and those in levels of government who say they are enviornmentalist—they seem to be very quiet.

    What about even in Evanston ? How many city employees [for that matter NU, ENH, workers in downtown Evanston or elsewhere], bike, walk or take public transportation to work.  Has the city tried work with the CTA to make bus routes and timing better able to serve all areas of the city—it sure does not seem so.

    1. I am an Evanston resident

      I am an Evanston resident without a car. My work schedule is not regular — I don't commute on a normal 9-5 routine. For my way of life, I disagree completely with your comment that the CTA is less reliable than Metra, which is constantly making excuses for a delay or cancellation. I will agree with you, however, on one point: the CTA buses that serve Evanston need serious improvement to become more reliable and useful.  

    2. Increases and Reliability
      I commute daily by train. Riding Metra is twice as expensive for me as CTA, but I’m happy to pay that for reliability and a pleasant riding experience. My time door-to-door is the same regardless of which train I take.

      I used to buy monthly passes but reliability has gone downhill and I found myself taking the CTA instead to get to work on time. Switched to the 10 ride but rarely use one in a week anymore because of late morning trains. I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility to take either line.

      What bothers me most about the increase is that riders in zones A-D are going to be charged a higher percentage than the others. Yet when the trains are running behind schedule, guess which stations they express through.

      I’ve only had the opportunity to ride in one of the new Metra cars twice so far. They need to revisit the design of the new lighting and the seating configuration.

  2. $12 billion
    Bill, I attempted to read about Metra’s history. It’s a complicated entity, and I have no idea, overall, what its Capital Improvement needs could be. Could be a new locomotive on one line, could be entirely new ballast and track on another. But, if it is $12 billion behind on Capital Improvements, how is that not one step away from inability to operate? And, inability to operate on what lines?

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