Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

Even with funding, Metra’s still raising the fares

Metra is moving forward with plans to increase fares by 10% on February 1, doomsday funding or no doomsday funding. However, the planned increases for 2009 and 2010 – previously expected to be 10% each time – may no longer be needed if the state money comes through.

My first reaction to this increase is “ouch!” 10% is a significant hike. Just ask the guy who receives a 10% pay raise, or is slammed by a 10% tax increase, if he notices the difference in his wallet. 10% is large enough to cause a person to change how they spend their money.

Gas prices have increased more than that over the past year, and therefore Metra’s expenses have also increased. I understand that. The unfortunate reality is that prices go up, rarely down, over time. However, 10% is enough to send me back to the spreadsheets and figure out if Metra is still going to save me money.

I have a car, and driving is my primary transportation method for getting to work. Metra is my enjoyable, wallet-friendly and eco-friendly alternative, but it is just that – an alternative. I do not take the train every day, although I would like to increase my ridership if it makes sense for me.

The Metra fare increase means that my savings for using mass transit will shrink (unless gas prices shoot up again), but I won’t know how this will affect my overall Metra ridership until I crunch the numbers. I want to know if the savings are still there.

However, all is not decided by the wallet and spreadsheet. Riding Metra provides benefits that are hard but not impossible to quantify, such as a more relaxed commute, increased cameraderie with train-riding co-workers, and a reliable schedule that isn’t subject to as many variables as driving. Even before accounting for environmental benefits of mass transit, the “what’s in it for me?” benefits are still substantial.

One option for managing the fare hike is to buy a few extra 10-ride passes before February 1. These passes are valid for one year after purchase and effectively “lock in” the fare between specified travel zones. I’d rather not pony up so much cash in advance for multiple passes, but the long-term savings are real. If saving money is a Metra motivator for you, you may want to do the same.

Filed under: Mass Transit, ,

7 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. kilax says:

    Somehow I didn’t know about the 10% increase until I read the paper this Saturday. And I was a bit surprised (only a bit), but there is not much I can do. There is no way I could drive to work each day.

    It is true that the benefits are more than the ease on the wallet. I used to drive to Glenview a few summers ago, and I hated it. That was when I started to take the train, I am so much more relaxed when I arrive at work now!

  2. […] Metra is still going to raise fares by 10%. […]

  3. lcmotorist says:

    The Metra fare increase hasn’t received as much press as the CTA route cuts and fare increases. Of the little press I saw, I don’t think Metra mentioned much about moving forward with the fare increase regardless of state funding.

    Seemed to me that the increase, with its Option A and Option B, was presented as a worst-case scenario to be enacted only if the funding didn’t come through, probably to convey a sense of urgency and doom (so call and write your legislators now!)

    But what I want to know is: If Metra gets the funding, will they keep cleaning the trains daily so they won’t get El-like?

  4. kilax says:

    PLEASE GOD let them keep cleaning the trains! 😉

  5. […] do find this passage funny, especially since it isn’t true (boldface emphasis is mine): With a long-term funding plan in place, the Chicago area transit […]

  6. MetR says:

    I found it important to figure more than just gas into the total cost of driving verses riding. The cost of maintaining the vehicle over time and the eventual replacement should also be considered. Stop and go traffic can be very tough on cars and therefore require quicker replacement.

    Today’s PDA and Smartphones allow for emailing, reading, work, etc to be done safely while commuting. That has helped save some of the minor loss of time and freedom by riding Metra.

    And then there is parking cost and the eventual stress related medical costs….

  7. lcmotorist says:

    You raise good points, MetR. Thanks for the feedback!

    I once calculated my cost/benefit of Metra ridership by using my company’s mileage reimubursement, which assumedly accounts for wear and tear (and gas, but I factored that separately just to err on the high side) and found that Metra and driving were somewhat equal at that time.

    I have a suburb-to-suburb commute so parking cost is not an issue for me, although there is the $1.25 per day cost at the Metra lot if I take the train.

    STRESS certainly cannot be underestimated especially over time! The Other Motorist in the House certainly appreciates it when I arrive home relaxed instead of hopping mad at the end of the work day.

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