Metra fare hikes understandable

By Lauren Kelly

Metra announced Nov. 13 it would raise one-way and weekend ticket prices on all rail lines, effective Feb. 1.

Columbia has long been a commuter school, so this increase will affect students as well. However, monthly and 10-day ticket prices will not increase. Those who commute regularly will still be able to purchase these passes at the normal price, so Columbia students aren’t as affected as they could have been if all prices were being raised.

According to Metra officials, the new fare structure is intended to encourage customers to utilize the longer-term passes.

This hike comes at a time when prices of many consumer goods and services are going up. The Chicago Transit Authority recently avoided raising fare prices, but will be cutting service on 110 of its 150 bus routes and eliminating 1,100 jobs to fill a large budget shortfall, according to CTA officials.

Metra, like all other businesses and public service agencies, is trying to cover its costs. It also raised fares in 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2008 to generate funds. Metra should not be demonized for being unable to find the funds elsewhere because there are funding issues and budget gaps across the state of Illinois.

Currently, there is no special discount for commuting college students who ride Metra lines daily, although a U-Pass-like system has been proposed in the past. This editorial board continues to support the SGA’s efforts to promote a student discount on Metra for college students, but given the current economic climate, it seems unlikely that the Regional Transit Authority would lower prices for student commuters.

Although it is unfortunate that Metra is being forced to raise some ticket prices, it avoided cutting service and laying people off. It is clear that the general economic climate in Illinois demands an increase to cover operating costs, but the hike was less severe than it could have been.