Metra can’t continue forcing riders to make up for system’s shortcomings

For the past several years, Metra officials have decided it’s OK to charge customers higher prices for worse service.

Back in November 2011, Metra officials approved the largest fare hike in the transit system’s history. That increase hiked monthly fares more than $20 for riders coming from within city limits to downtown and nearly $50 for riders commuting from Metra’s farthest stops to downtown, according to reports from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Not long after this hike took effect, Metra officials approved a fare hike for 10-ride passes in 2012. The Sun-Times reported that customers saw the price of 10-ride tickets increase “anywhere from $2.75 to $9.25, depending on the tickets’ zone, which are determined by distance.”

Since these fare increases took place, customers have only seen service get worse. When officials first began talking about raising ride costs, they were also promising added benefits, such as free Wi-Fi, which never came to fruition.

Trains are frequently late or delayed, especially on Metra’s BNSF line, where one out of every five rush-hour trains ran at least five minutes late in May, according to the Chicago Tribune.

And now there is talk of yet another rate hike.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Metra will face $49 million in “higher costs” next year, along with $9.7 billion in “unmet capital needs” for equipment, infrastructure and maintenance.

Buried much later in Tribune writer Richard Wronski’s piece is the fact that “60 percent of Metra’s operating expenses go toward labor costs,” and continue to rise.

“Salary and benefit costs for Metra's contract employees and BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad workers, who staff some Metra lines, are expected to rise by $16 million in 2015, the data show,” Wronski wrote.

Riders can’t continue to carry the burden of Metra’s shortcomings alone. Before Metra officials consider hiking fares again, they owe it to the public to root out waste and trim costs wherever possible.

Image source: Glenn Davis

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