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Metra’s capital needs

To the Editor:

Thank you for your editorial regarding our change in 10-ride ticket prices (Our view, Feb. 7). We share your goal of containing fare increases and making sure our fiscal house is in order. Over the past two years, we have been honest and open about our needs and have taken many steps to operate more efficiently and effectively.

One reason for last year’s increase was that regional sales tax proceeds have lagged due to the faltering economy. Another was our decision to stop using money from our capital budget to cover large operating deficits. A third was the fact that our costs, particularly diesel fuel costs, have risen.

That increase and our efforts to cut costs put our operating budget on firmer ground, and we did not need to raise fares for operations in 2013. However, there still is a huge shortfall in our capital budget, which pays for infrastructure improvements. We need $7.4 billion over the next decade to maintain our system, and we expect just $2.6 billion from traditional state and federal sources. The 10-ride change will generate about $8.3 million, most of which will go to our capital budget. We hope to use that money as a match to draw more federal dollars.

We know riders prefer no fare increases, but we must address our capital needs. We also know – because many riders told us last year – that smaller, regular increases are preferable to significant, infrequent increases. This year’s change is consistent with that preference.

Thank you for your support of Metra.

Alex Clifford

CEO, Metra

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