Kane County residents who take the train to Chicago year-round will pay almost $3,000 for their tickets in 2017, following Metra’s recent approval of a $1.06 billion budget. Fare hikes start in February.
According to Metra’s newly released fare table, commuters from the Elburn and LaFox stations in Zone I of the Union Pacific West Line will pay $249.50 for a monthly pass. Multiply that by 12, and the total you’ll get is $2,994 a year.
Riders who purchase monthly passes from other departure points in Kane County — Geneva on the UP West Line, Aurora on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Line and Big Timber Road, Elgin and National Street on the Milwaukee District West Line — are in Zone H and will pay $228 for a monthly pass. That comes to $2,736 a year.
The year-over-year increase is $141 for Kane County commuters who use the monthly pass and take the train to Chicago.
Metra’s 2017 budget provides $781.2 million for operating costs and $279.5 million for capital improvements in 2017. The budget increases fare revenue by 5.8 percent to generate $16.1 million for the agency’s huge capital needs.
“No one likes to pay higher fares, but unfortunately we can’t ignore our need for more money to invest on our system,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “We hope our customers understand that we are trying to address a serious capital funding shortfall as best we can.”
Fare increases that will take effect on Feb. 1, 2017, include the following:
- Customers who buy One-Way Tickets will pay 25 cents more per ticket. If you take the train 30 times a year, you’ll pay an additional $7.50 annually to ride Metra.
- Customers who buy 10-Ride Tickets will pay $2.75 more per ticket. That works out to an additional 27.5 cents per trip. If you commute 50 weeks per year, that comes to $68.75 a year.
- Customers who buy Monthly Passes will pay $11.75 more per month. That works out to about 27 cents more per trip and $141 more annually to ride Metra.
- Other fare increases include an additional 25 cents on the reduced fare One-Way Ticket, an additional $1.50 on the reduced fare 10-Ride Ticket and an additional $7.50 on the reduced fare Monthly Pass.
The monthly ticket is still the best deal if you commute to Chicago 50 weeks a year. For a Zone I commuter, the cost of the 50-week commute to Chicago would be $2,994 using the monthly passes, $3,937.50 using the 10-rides and $4,375 if you purchase one-way tickets.
Kane County Train Commuter Primer
Kane County commuters have three train lines to choose from:
- The Milwaukee District West Line, which runs from Big Timber Road in Elgin to Union Station in Chicago.
- The Union Pacific West Line, which runs from Elburn to the Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago.
- The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Line, which runs from Aurora to Union Station in Chicago.
Elburn and LaFox stations on the UP West Line are in Metra’s Zone I. The five other Kane County Metra stations are in Zone H.
Metra’s rates are determined by zone. Basically, the farther you are from the city, the higher the fare. As mentioned above, the fare increases for 2017 are across the board — 25 cents more per one-way ticket, for example, no matter where you embark or disembark.
Zone I Increases (Elburn and LaFox Stations to Chicago)
- Monthly: $237.75 (2016); $249.50 (2017)
- 10-Ride: $76 (2016); $78.75 (2017)
- Daily One-Way: $8.50 (2016); $8.75 (2017)
Zone H Increases (Geneva, Aurora, Big Timber, Elgin, National Street Stations to Chicago)
- Monthly: $216.25 (2016); $228 (2017)
- 10-Ride: $69.25 (2016); $72 (2017)
- Daily One-Way: $7.75 (2016); $8 (2017)
If you want to save a little money and board the first train to the east of Kane County, you can save some money. The West Chicago station on the UP West Line is in Zone F, the Bartlett station on the MD-W Line is in Zone F and the Route 59 station on the BNSF Line is in Zone G.
Obviously, there’s a lot more cost to commuting than just the train fare. Riders pay monthly or daily parking fees, generally to their municipal police departments. There’s the cost of transportation to and from the local station and cost of transportation once you’re in Chicago.
Why Fares Went Up
Metra’s 2017 Operating Budget, which covers the day-to-day costs of running the railroad, increases costs by $21.4 million or 2.8 percent over 2016. Key drivers of 2017 operating cost changes include a projected savings of $9 million in diesel fuel prices locked in in 2016, a projected $11.6 million increase in employee health care costs and an average 3 percent increase in employee wages. Metra also anticipates a $4.7 million increase in training and mechanical costs, a $2.6 million increase in Positive Train Control (PTC) operating costs, a $2.8 million increase in materials and services costs and a $1.2 million increase for the Safety and Police Departments.
Fares cover about half of the operating budget, with the rest primarily coming from the RTA sales tax collected in the six-county region (partially matched by state). The $21.4 million in operating cost increases will be offset by an additional $21.8 million Metra is expected to receive from the RTA sales tax in 2017.
The fare increase will generate an additional $16.1 million in revenue in 2017, 100 percent of which will be used to fund capital improvement projects. Metra has an extensive backlog of capital projects requiring $11.7 billion over the next decade or $1.2 billion annually just to achieve and maintain a state of good repair. Yet, in each of the next four years, Metra projects that it will have less than $300 million annually available to spend on capital projects – about $900 million less than the agency needs to spend each year.
For 2017, the Capital Budget totals $279.5 million, the bare minimum investment the agency can make in 2017 to keep the system functioning reliably. The capital budget includes $90.5 million for rolling stock to continue our program to rehabilitate 18 locomotives and 43 railcars annually and a portion of funding to purchase 21 new railcars. Other major capital investments include: $23 million to continue the multi-year effort to replace aging Union Pacific North Line bridges over 22 streets on the north side of Chicago and rebuild Ravenswood Station; $20 million to expand the 49th Street rehabilitation facility to increase by 30 percent the number of railcars Metra can rehab each year; and $30.5 million to continue to install PTC.
For 2017, Metra is expecting to receive $175 million from federal sources and $72.4 million from the RTA for its capital needs. It is anticipating no new capital money from the state of Illinois.
As it does each year, Metra began the budget process by finding $5.3 million in cuts to the current operating budget, including: $1.8 million in reduced insurance and claims costs; $1.7 million from the elimination 27 vacant positions; $700,000 in reduced website hosting and content management costs; $600,000 from lower-priced software maintenance contract for revenue accounting and less expensive data storage; $300,000 from reduced maintenance costs as older locomotives are remanufactured; $100,000 in reduced maintenance costs as old Highliner cars are retired; $100,000 in reduced media consulting services, and $100,000 in reduced in rental expenses. These budget cuts bring the total efficiencies achieved by Metra in the past seven years to $24.8 million.
SOURCE: Metra news release, fare table and budget book