Commuter Students Wary of Metra Fare Hike

Eileen O'Gorman | The PHOENIXLoyola students who live in the Illinois suburbs and use the Metra service to commute could be impacted by a fare increase of 25 cents per one-way ticket — an increase of $11.75 for a monthly pass — if the 2017 budget is approved.

Metra, a popular commuter train system that travels through Chicago and the surrounding Illinois suburbs, has proposed a $1.06 billion budget for 2017. If approved, fares would increase by 5.8 percent for single-ride and monthly passes.

Metra proposed the budget on Oct. 14. Part of the budget increase would impact operating costs and capital improvements, while the rest would benefit Metra’s capital needs, allowing the program to rehabilitate 18 locomotives and 43 railcars, and purchase 21 new railcars.

If approved, customers who buy one-way tickets would pay 25 cents more per ticket and monthly passes would cost $11.75 more per month, effective Feb. 1, according to the Metra website.

Typically, off-campus students make up more than half of the student body, according to Loyola’s Office of Institutional Research. Some of those students commute from the suburbs and rely on the Metra to get to and from campus.

“My parents help me pay for my monthly pass, but we still find the ticket to be expensive,” said sophomore commuter student Miguel Molina. “We understand that this is more convenient and safer than driving with Chicago’s construction, weather and consistent traffic.”

Molina rides the Metra from Clarendon Hills to Union Station every day, so he would be impacted by the increase of $11.75 per month if Metra’s proposed budget is approved.

Nick Memisovski, the manager of Campus Transportation at Loyola, agreed that riding the Metra beats the cost of owning a vehicle, even with the potential fare increase.

For some, the increased fare price would mean needing to find alternate ways to get home.

First-year biology major Lauren Bunke said that the choice whether or not to keep riding the Metra would depend on how much the fare increased.

“I would probably still be able to afford [the fare price],” said the 18-year-old. “But I’d probably be more likely to ask my parents to pick me up because it is such a hassle and if [Metra is] going to raise it, it’s a long way, so at that point I might ask [them] to pick me up instead.”

Memisovski said he understands why Metra has proposed the fare increase but wishes Metra was more accessible to students.

“I would love to see the CTA and the Metra, and maybe even Pace [a suburban bus with service to and from the Chicago metropolitan area] work together to where the Ventra pass would be valid on all of the public transit that’s offered in the city,” said Memisovski. “I think, from a cost standpoint for students, it would be highly beneficial to them if there was this one pass you could use.”

Metra has declined to comment.

The new Metra budget has yet to be finalized. The preliminary budget hearings are scheduled for Nov. 2 and 3, and the final budget vote is set for Nov. 11.

Last year, Metra approved a fare increase of 2 percent for 2016 even with low turnouts at public hearings. This year, some hearings will be broadcast live on the internet, and members of the public are encouraged to attend or tune in online.

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