Metra loses monthly pass advantage over CTA with fare hike

With the average Metra fare increasing about 30% effective Wednesday, the transit agency is losing its big advantage over the CTA in pricing on monthly passes.

That's particularly true at stations closer to downtown Chicago. Take Rogers Park, for instance. I can remember a number of my friends and neighbors saying they were switching to the Metra Union Pacific North Line when CTA monthly pass rates increased from $75 to $86 in 2008. That was when a Zone B monthly pass on Metra cost just over $63 - a monthly savings of $23. You could pay for about 10 venti Starbucks coffees with those savings.

But now it costs $85.50 for that same monthly pass - a 34.5% increase. And just 50 cents less than the CTA monthly pass. You can't buy much with 50 cents these days.

So now that Metra can't really compete on price, I guess all it has is a better riding experience over the CTA.

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  • $23 was never much of a price advantage anyway -- an extra couple of minutes per trip, and it disappears.

    It sounds like this change puts Metra more in line with the market. It's predominantly commuters buying monthly passes, so it stands to reason that the trip downtown should cost the same amount via CTA or Metra. (If anything, it should be more expensive in El territory, to capitalize on the better ride.)

  • The difference between taking Metra from Rogers Park or the CTA from Rogers Park is comparing a luxury bathroom to a cold, freezing outhouse!

    Metra trains are clean, have wastebaskets for trash, comfortable seats & you're not squashed against another person.
    They have toilets on the trains & in many stations [not Rogers Park].
    It takes only 21 minutes to go from Rogers Park to Madison St. There are rarely slow zones on Metra, certainly not the huge slow zones on the Red Line.
    Only rarely are there people that cause disturbances on Metra. No one panhandles on Metra.
    When Metra has a problem, they send out emails to everyone that has subscribed to that line's emails telling you what the delay is & about how long it will be.
    On Jan. 20, the day of the last snow storm, there was an early morning derailment in the Waukegan coach yard. I received at least 95 email updates from Metra on this.
    Metra conductors will talk to you & tell you what's going on & why there's a delay.
    Plus Metra says they will have a train tracker running later this year.

    Compare all that to the wretched CTA when it comes to communicating with passengers about delays or even worse, those who are stuck on trains.
    To the filthy trains.
    Metra built a temporary platform at Ravenswood in a week. The CTA has been working on the Oakton station for almost two years!
    Yes there's a major difference in them, but 18 months! They built the Empire State Building in that same amount of time!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    If you are riding the UPN line, you forgot the 8 year project to rebuild it, on which Metra had to back down on their one-track plan, but the line is still going to be under construction for 8 years. Getting a temporary platform up in a week doesn't mean that the new Ravenswood station will be completed in a week. Also, some of the villages were complaining that they were overcharged for station remodeling work because Metra only allows using their pet contractors.

    Yet, I made the prior points:
    1. The south side preachers basically only helped the riders from the Ravenswood station, which, even though the Brown Line project is done, Metra still reports is the heaviest on that line.

    2. CTA riders are going to get their fare surprise mid year, while still having to tolerate all the conditions chronicled on the CTA Tattler. Since Metra riders for the most part took it, nobody except maybe Quinn is going to show any sympathy, and Quinn doesn't have the money to do anything this time.

  • In reply to jack:

    I remembered the bridge replacement project.
    But the trains slow to maybe 40 mph in passing the three bridges being replaced right now.
    I really doubt if Metra will take almost two years to build the new Ravenswood station.
    But the real problem with the bridge replacement is they haven't told anyone that as soon as they finish this project, then they'll have to replace all the bridges in Rogers Park & Evanston, which were built in 1907. They also haven't told people about the massive project coming up to replace all the bridges at the Clybourn station over Ashland Ave, which will include straightening out Ashland. That really should have been done in conjunction with building the Kennedy 50 years ago.
    The proper way to have done this would have been to shut the line down for at most, a couple of months, demolish all the bridges from Evanston south, at once & then roll in new, full built bridges & rebuild the tracks at those points.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    If you are going back 50 (more than likely 60) years ago, you would have then been dealing with a private railroad, and basically said that the government could have shut it down, not to mention all the complaints that then would have been engendered by the commuting residents of the North Shore.

    In fact, you are still dealing with a private railroad, except that Metra is stuck rebuilding it for the UP, although it is for the benefit of commuters, as the UP isn't running freight on that branch.

    Hence, shutting it down to build the Kennedy would have resulted in a huge claim for eminent domain damages.

  • In reply to jack:

    The UP does run freight out of a yard south of North Ave. to several customers, including Morton Salt on Elston Ave.
    There is also freight at the north end of the line, Abbot the biggest in North Chicago.

    Plus, I didn't mean they would have shut it down to build the Kennedy, they would have built a shoefly until they rebuilt the Ashland bridges. As it it, they will have to build the shoefly in the near future at Ashland to replace those bridges.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    There is freight on the north end, but that gets shunted off onto the Skokie Valley Route, and then between Lake Cook and Dundee Roads. The vast majority of that line is passenger only, which was my point that Metra was building on a private r.o.w.

    In any event, what they (and they probably means the C&NW) could have done 50 or 60 years ago to structures that probably then were only half as old is moot.

  • How much more comfortable is it to ride from Rogers Park? I'm sure it doesn't take as long, since there are fewer stops, but I would imagine by the time any inbound AM rush hour train gets there it's pretty full and you'd be standing into downtown. Then there's the inconvenience (for many people) of getting to the office from Ogilvie. I don't think even a $23 difference would put me on the UPN from Rogers Park to downtown.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    There are rarely standees on Metra.
    Plus, you can walk from car to car & look for a seat.

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    The Rogers park metra is awesome, but it only goes downtown. (well and I guess the north suburbs, but who goes there?) monthly metra passes seem to me for commuters who only take public transit to work, not anti-car people who take public transit everywhere.
    I'm not sure how much the 10 rides are increasing, but you could buy 3 10 rides for $3 less than a monthly pass. If you take the train 5 days a week this is impractical, but Often the train is too full for the conductor to punch your card, so 10-rides get even cheaper.

  • In reply to Caitlinleah:

    Turns out you are approximately correct for the 10 rides: 3*$27=$81, while the monthly is $85. In fact, it is usually assumed that a monthly commute is 22 rides, so it would be less (only issue is whether buying a $7 weekend pass pays, since the base fare is $2.50, while the weekend pass is $7.00).

    My two disagreements are:
    1) There are a lot of people working in the Lake-Cook area, but you would need a B-E ticket for that.

    2) The monthly is theoretically good to any Metra Zone B. Thus, you could then go to Hyde Park on a monthly without paying a second. fare. That becomes a better deal, say, with regard to someone I knew who rode between Naperville and Deerfield on one Zone F ticket, in effect getting a free Zone E ride each time, transferring between the BNSF and Milw N. at Union Station.

  • Anecdotal: Ravenswood station was relatively empty on the inbound side for the #326/8:31am. Maybe the switch is on. The coffee analogy is also spot on. Many of the riders in my car needed to be jolted from sleep or general drowsiness, hence maybe they're giving up morning coffee to pay for the increase.

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