In a somewhat unusual and unexpected move, Metra’s board of directors on Wednesday voted to not raise fares in 2019.
It wasn’t a vote to reject a fare hike. There was never even an official motion to do so, although the agency’s staff had suggested that the board consider three options: raising fares 25 cents per ride, 50 cents per ride, or doing nothing.
Not this time, Metra Chairman Norm Carlson said.
Instead, Metra will spend the next year highlighting the need for more state funding while sounding the alarm about the system’s deterioration and possible “drastic changes in service levels” if that funding does not materialize, officials said.
In late 2014 Metra unveiled a $2.4 billion plan to modernize its rolling stock and install the federally mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system. Metra had counted on the legislature to approve a $1.1 billion state bond program, along with fare increases, to generate capital, as well as an additional $1.3 billion contribution from the state.
The promised $1.1 billion was cut to $865 million, and the $1.3 billion “never materialized,” Carlson said.
Other than 2018, Metra’s fare increases were devoted to raising money for capital, that is, locomotives, cars, tracks…