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Metra CEO won’t rule out raising fares next year

Metrstaticommuters leaving traUniStation. | Sun-Times File Photo

Metra station commuters leaving a train at Union Station. | Sun-Times File Photo

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Updated: September 17, 2014 6:11AM

Faced with capital upkeep needs that far outstrip revenue, Metra CEO Don Orseno Friday would not rule out the possibility of fare hikes next year.

No decision has been made yet on a fare hike, Orseno emphasized, but “there’s nothing off the table. We’re looking at a lot of different things.”

Riders should know Metra’s intentions by next month, when Metra unveils its proposed budget for next fiscal year.

Orseno’s comments to reporters followed a presentation at Metra’s board meeting, at which board members were told that Metra’s average monthly fare of $175 is far lower than four of five comparable transit systems, whose average fares, similarly calculated, ranged from $277 to $313.

Only Southeast Pennsylvania’s commuter rail monthly average was lower, at $162.

After that presentation, board members were told Metra expects to need $320 million to keep its system in a “state of good repair’’ next fiscal year, but anticipates getting only $210 million in revenue to cover those costs.

In addition, Metra estimated that to address a backlog of capital needs, it will need another $6.6 billion over the next 10 years.

Board member John Plante expressed frustration with Congress’ inability to approve a long-term transportation bill. He seemed to hint at the unspoken fare-hike elephant in the room when he said during Friday’s board meeting: “We’re having to make Hobson’s choices here. We may have to take the bit in our teeth.’’


Twitter: @rosalindrossi

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