Metra announced Wednesday it will not raise fares in 2020. This is the second year in a row the commuter rail has not asked customers to pay more.
The agency also announced in a news release that, thanks to the new state capital program, it will budget $2.6 billion for capital improvements over the next five years, with a priority on railcars, locomotives, stations, bridges and service improvements.
“We are happy to give our customers a double dose of good news this budget season,” Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said. “First, we have been able to keep our operating expenses in check and will not need to raise fares to cover higher operating costs. Second, thanks to Springfield stepping up, we do not need to raise fares for capital needs”
Metra searched for ways to control or reduce its operating costs to head off the need for a fare increase. It identified about $5 million in efficiencies. In addition, it expects to save about $7 million by not filling vacancies and about $9 million by reducing overtime and other expenses.
Metra expects to receive about $215.5 million in each of the next five years from the sale of state bonds, and an additional $73.8 million a year from “Pay Go” funding tied to a higher state fuel tax, for a total of $1.45 billion in new state money, according to the release.
A list of specific projects to be funded by the capital program still is being drafted and will be presented when the program is proposed in October. Broadly, however, Metra will prioritize spending on cars and locomotives; stations, including Americans with Disabilities Act improvements; bridges, including many that are more than 100 years old; and service enhancements, according to the release.