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Metra Proposes Rate Hike; Durbin and Kirk Fight Back

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Sep 21, 2011 10:00PM

Photo by Flickr user sleeze.

Last week Metra officials announced a proposal for a 26 percent hike in Metra fare, and now Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Mark Kirk are asking Metra to explain itself. Metra decided to raise prices instead of cutting services. Officials say this proposal isn't final, but they need to find a way to close a projected $64.7 million budget shortfall in 2012.

The price changes would be more drastic for those riding short distances -- about a 44 percent increase. The cost of 10-ride packages and monthly passes would rise more than that of one-way tickets.

The senators are also asking Metra to be more transparent in their decisions regarding budget reductions and the assignment of outside contracts. Metra has been in trouble for being secretive before. Durbin and Kirk's letter said:

“We understand the financial challenges facing Metra and other transit agencies around the nation, and respect the need to examine all options to ensure the safe and reliable operation of commuter rail. However, we feel the riders of Metra deserve an explanation for many of the costs incurred by the agency, and justify the proposed 30% fare increase.”
One of the busiest lines, the Union Pacific North Line, is undergoing massive construction to update crumbling railway bridges and to build a new station at the Ravenswood stop. Metra opted to build a third set of tracks, at an additional cost, in order to not cut services.