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Our view: More Metra rate hikes

A year after the biggest rate increase in its history, a new hike went into effect this month for riders of Metra’s suburban rail service.

The 10-ride ticket, which previously was discounted, now costs the same as 10 individual, one-way tickets.

In McHenry County, the ticket price increased to $82.50 from $74.25 and to $92.50 from $83.25. The increase ranged from $2.75 to $9.25, depending on where in the county you board.

About 20 percent of Metra riders are 10-ride tickets buyers. More than half purchase discounted monthly passes. While the single-ride tickets and monthly passes did not increase this year, they did significantly last year.

We can understand why many Metra commuters are getting frustrated with the constant rate increases.

The state Legislature doubled the Regional Transportation Authority’s sales tax in the collar counties in 2008 in part to help fund Metra. Ever since, however, Metra continues to bump its rates.

We understand that Metra needs to upgrade its infrastructure and technology, and that energy costs continue to rise.

We support the commuter rail service because it takes cars off our congested road system, is more convenient, and is better overall for the environment.

And we’ve traditionally favored user fee hikes over blanket tax increases, such as what the General Assembly did with sales taxes in 2008, because it means that those using the service pay.

But at what point do the continually rising costs deter commuters from using it?

Many Metra riders still remember the mismanagement and outright theft under former Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano, who killed himself on the day he was to be fired for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the agency.

Metra and its parent agency, the RTA, need to get their fiscal house in order, and work to contain these ever-increasing rate increases.

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