METRA TICKETS/FARES/FARE HISTORY

OVERVIEW

Metra still uses traditional ticketing methods on most of its lines. One buys a ticket from an agent at a station before boarding a train, and a conductor checks and punches the ticket on the train. If a station has no agent on duty, the fare is paid to the conductor on the train.

Ticket agents are generally on duty throughout the day every day at the downtown Chicago stations. Most of the outlying stations have an agent on duty from early morning through early afternoon. The least busy stations have no agent at any time. If a fare is paid on the train when an agent was on duty, a $5 penalty is charged.

In 2010, Metra began accepting credit cards. And in 2015, Metra first embraced the Ventra system adopted earlier by CTA and Pace. Which was more of a challenge because of Metra's zone fare system, unlike the flat fare systems used by CTA and Pace. A Ventra smartphone app is now available, enabling passengers to pay their fares with the app. An app had been available earlier for the South Shore Line, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD).


RTA COMMUTER RAILROAD FARE UNIFICATION

Prior to the RTA's creation, the individual commuter railroads all had separate fare structures. Most fares were station to station, although the Illinois Central adopted a simpler zone fare structure in 1971. The commuter railroads offered one way and monthly unlimited tickets, most offered weekly unlimited tickets, and some offered 10 or 25 ride tickets, or semi-monthly unlimited tickets. Discount round trip tickets were eliminated on all railroads by 1971. The 10 or 25 ride tickets during some periods were not discounted. Children ages 5 through 11 rode for half price on most railroads.

Effective October 1, 1976, one year after the RTA's creation, a uniform zone fare structure was adopted for most of Chicago's commuter railroads. Exceptions at that time were the Chicago & North Western and the Rock Island lines. There were delays in working out the Purchase of Service Contract with the C&NW, so the unified fares on those lines did not take effect until April 1, 1977. The unified fares were not implemented on the Rock Island line until November 1, 1979, after deliveries of new cars were completed. RTA had felt that Rock Island commuters had suffered enough with old equipment and poor track, that the fare increases were delayed until the line was brought up to a respectable condition.

The new uniform fare structure divided each commuter rail line into five mile zones. And for the first time, tickets were interchangeable within a given zone for all commuter lines. The South Shore Line, mostly an Indiana operation, largely continues to have its own fare structure. Although for Hegewisch, the only South Shore station within Illinois, the fares into Chicago are what they would normally be for a Metra station at that distance. Except that unlike the rest of the Metra system, tickets are not interchangeable.

A modest fare increase was adopted effective November 1, 1979. The RTA funding crisis of 1981 resulted in major fare increases. With more secure funding, fares were rolled back effective February 1, 1984. Metra financing was relatively stable for a while, with modest fare increases adopted in 1986, 1989, and 1996.

After the terrorist attacks of 2001, the need for heightened security was one reason for the need to increase fares again in 2002. Further fare increases were adopted in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

The current decade has been financially challenging, as Metra had fallen behind in the necessary expenditures to provide a modern and reliable commuter rail system. A large fare increase was adopted in 2012, followed by modest fare increases in 2013, 2015, 2016, and most recently on February 1, 2017.

Metra presently offers one way, 10 ride, and monthly unlimited tickets. Metra also offers the Weekend Pass, valid for unlimited use on Metra on a Saturday and Sunday within one weekend. The Weekend Pass was introduced in 1991 at $5. And the price remained the same until 2010, when it was raised to $7, and in 2015 raised to $8. Metra tickets can also be used to ride beyond the ticket zone, by paying the conductor $1 for the first zone, and 50 cents for each additional zone. This works well for monthly ticket holders making an occasional trip beyond the normal zone.

Reduced fares (half price) would apply for children ages 7 to 11, high school students, senior citizens and people with disabilities with the RTA Reduced Fare Permit, and military personnel. Although in 2008, a new state law was passed in Illinois requiring all public transportation systems to allow senior citizens to ride for free. This is the same criteria for reduced fares on CTA and Pace. In addition, certain low income people with disabilities became entitled to a free fare. Although in 2011, the free fare for senior citizens would be rescinded, except with low incomes. This free fare was with controversy, as it was a condition under which then governor Rod Blagojevich would sign legislation allowing for a tax increase to support public transportation. In 2009, Blagojevich was removed from office amid various scandals, for which he was convicted in 2011 and sent to prison. In addition on weekends, Metra offers "family fares", where children under 12 ride free and people ages 12 to 17 ride at reduced fare.


COMMUTER RAILROADS IN THE 1970'S - MEMORIES

Includes scanned images of tickets from Chicago's commuter railroads, before and after RTA and Metra unification.


CHICAGO COMMUTER RAILROAD FARES - PAST AND PRESENT

This chart shows different fares and types of tickets for the five major commuter railroads prior to RTA, and the unified fares at various times throughout the RTA and Metra history. Dates for the individual commuter railroads are for each railroad's last fare increase, prior to the October 1, 1976 adoption of RTA universal fares. The RTA funding crisis of 1981 resulted in higher fares between 1981 and 1984. Also shown are types of tickets, not all railroads offered all types of tickets at all times. "Semi-Mo" is semi-monthly, valid for half of a month. Fares are shown for three different sample distances from Chicago (8, 22, 37 miles).



RAILROAD   C&NW  Milw. CRI&P BN    IC     RTA    Metra  Metra  Metra  Metra  Metra

FARE       May   Oct.  Aug.  Nov.  Dec.   Oct.   Oct.   Feb.   Feb.   Feb.   Feb.
EFFECTIVE   1     1    13    19    14      1      1      1      1      1      1
DATE       1974  1973  1973  1973  1973   1976   1981   1984   1996   2010   2017


8 Miles

One Way     1.00   .90   .95   .70   .85   1.00   2.15   1.95   1.95   2.50   4.00
10 Ride     9.00  9.00  8.45  7.00 -----  -----  21.50  19.50  16.60  20.00  36.00
25 Ride    22.50 ----- 21.10 16.80 20.40  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
Weekly      7.95  7.25  7.10 -----  7.55   8.10  17.20  15.60  -----  -----  -----
Semi-Mo    14.05 13.20 13.45 ----- -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
Monthly    25.50 24.20 24.45 22.05 25.05  27.00  58.05  52.65  52.65  63.45 114.00


22 Miles

One Way     1.60  1.45  1.35  1.35  1.45   1.45   3.35   3.00   3.50   4.50   6.50
10 Ride    14.40 14.50 12.80 13.50 -----  -----  33.50  30.00  29.75  36.55  58.50
25 Ride    36.00 ----- 32.05 32.40 34.80  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
Weekly     12.95 11.55 10.80 ----- 12.00  11.75  26.80  24.00  -----  -----  -----
Semi-Mo    22.80 20.65 20.45 ----- -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
Monthly    41.45 37.75 37.20 35.40 40.00  39.15  90.45  81.00  94.50 116.10 185.25


37 Miles

One Way     2.00  2.15  1.90  2.30 -----   1.90   4.50   4.05   4.65   6.00   8.00
10 Ride    18.00 21.50 17.50 23.00 -----  -----  45.00  40.50  39.55  48.05  72.00
25 Ride    45.00 ----- 43.70 55.20 -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
Weekly     16.45 14.25 14.70 ----- -----  15.40  36.00  32.40  -----  -----  -----
Semi-Mo    29.00 25.45 27.95 ----- -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
Monthly    52.70 46.50 49.80 44.00 -----  51.30 121.50 109.35 125.55 152.55 228.00


NEXT       Apr.  Oct.  Nov.  Oct.  Oct    Nov.   Feb.   Feb.   Jun.   Feb.
FARE        1     1     1     1     1      1      1      1      1      1
CHANGE     1977  1976  1979  1976  1976   1979   1984   1986   2002   2012



AUTOMATIC FARE COLLECTION ON METRA ELECTRIC

In 1966, the Illinois Central Railroad introduced an innovative and revolutionary system of fare collection, using magnetic tickets and turnstiles. The system continued to be used on the Metra Electric District until 2003.