Metra unveils 2023 budget

Publication Date
Wednesday, October 12, 2022
Body

Metra staff today proposed a 2023 operating budget of $980 million that includes various options for discounting the cost of a Monthly Pass from pre-pandemic pricing and other fare changes. The agency also detailed how it plans to spend more than half a billion dollars in new capital funding.

Under one proposal, the price of a full fare Monthly Pass would equal 16 one-way fares, a reduction from 29 one-way fares, the price before the current – but temporary and promotional – $100 flat-rate “Super Saver” pass. The Day Pass would be offered only in the Ventra app and priced at two one-way trips; it would be good for unlimited travel between the selected zones for a single day. Under that proposal, Metra would only allow Monthly Pass holders (and not holders of other tickets) to pay an incremental fare to travel beyond their selected zones. The cost to travel beyond selected zones would be $1 for the first zone and $.50 for each additional zone.

Metra may also consider a fare proposal reflective of comments from Board members indicating a desire for a more simplified and consolidated fare structure, potentially consisting of retaining the existing $100 Super Saver Monthly Pass, the existing $6 and $10 day passes, or some combination of those and similar products.

The Board, which voted to release the proposed budget for public comment, will choose a fare option when it votes on the budget in November. The full budget book can be viewed here or downloaded here.

“Our hope is that the competitive pricing on our Monthly Passes will encourage more people to ride Metra and more people to choose the Monthly Pass as their fare payment option,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “High prices for most things don’t seem to be going away any time soon, so our Monthly Pass fares are also a great way to minimize the impact of inflation on your personal budget.”

The $980 million operating budget is $80 million, or 8.9%, higher than the 2022 amended budget. The increase is due to inflationary and contractual cost increases, higher expenses incurred by restoring service and headcount levels to pre-pandemic levels, and costs associated with capital projects and strategic initiatives.

The operating budget forecasts system-generated revenue (mostly fares) of $218.2 million and regional transportation sales tax revenue of $523.6 million. The forecast for fares is based on a projection that ridership will start the year at about 40% of pre-pandemic (2019) ridership and finish the year at about 55% of pre-pandemic levels.

The remaining $238.2 million will be covered with federal COVID-relief funding. Metra received nearly $1.1 billion in three rounds of relief funding and has $599.2 million remaining at the start of 2023. It expects the relief funding to run out in 2025, requiring additional funding or budget actions.

Metra’s 2023 budget for capital calls for $504.6 million in new investment. About 67% of budget will fund large-scale projects, including:

  • Station reconstruction: $119.5 million
  • Railcar rehabilitation and purchase: $70.8 million
  • Program management: $38.6 million
  • Locomotive improvements: $33.3 million
  • Bridge replacement and rehabilitation: $32.1 million  
  • Ticket vending machines: $24.6 million
  • Interlockings: $21.4 million

The Capital Budget is funded by:

  • $252.5 million in federal formula funding, a nearly 30% increase from 2022 levels
  • $30.8 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement and other federal funding
  • $73.8 million in Illinois PAYGO funds
  • $12 million in Illinois Multi-Modal Transportation Bond funds
  • $500,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IDCEO)
  • $5 million from Cook County
  • $130 million in RTA bonds

Public hearings about the budget will be held throughout the region on Nov. 2 and 3 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. The schedule is below. In addition, a virtual public hearing will be held on Nov. 2 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Instructions for attending the virtual hearing, and for submitting budget comments via mail, email, or voicemail, are also below.

2023 Metra Budget Public Hearing Schedule

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Will County
Joliet City Hall Council Chambers
150 W. Jefferson St.

DuPage County
Clarendon Hills Village Hall
Village Board Room
One N. Prospect Ave.

City of Chicago
Metra
Board Room 13th floor
547 W. Jackson Blvd.

Lake County
Mundelein Village Hall
Village Board Room
300 Plaza Circle

Thursday, Nov. 3, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

South Suburban Cook County
East Hazel Crest Village Hall
Village Board Room
1904 W. 174th St.

Kane County
Kane County Government Center
Building A – 1st Floor Auditorium
719 S. Batavia Ave.
Geneva

North Suburban Cook County
Hanover Park Police Department
Community Room
2011 Lake St.

McHenry County
Crystal Lake City Hall
City Council Chambers
100 W. Woodstock St.

Virtual Public Hearing

Any person may participate in the virtual public hearing between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 2. Although it is not required, the public has the option to preregister if they wish to participate during the virtual public hearing. If you do not wish to preregister but would still like to participate in the virtual public hearing, please skip to Section II below for instructions.

During preregistration, Metra will ask you to enter your first name, last name, and email address. To efficiently facilitate the virtual public hearing, Metra will first call on those who preregistered, and then give all those who wish to provide comments an opportunity to participate.

Section I: Steps to preregister for the virtual public hearing:

  • Step 1: Log on to your computer and click to open a webpage browser (ex: Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome, etc.).
  • Step 2: Once on the home page of your webpage browser, please enter the following website URL, www.Webex.com, in the internet browser search bar on top of the browser homepage.
  • Step 3: Once on the Webex homepage, please click on “Join” in the top right-hand of the homepage.
  • Step 4: You will be prompted to enter the meeting ID number: 2330 583 3648.
  • Step 5: You will be prompted to enter the meeting password: 2023budget. Then press “register.”
  • Step 6: Complete the form by entering your first name, last name, and email address. Press “register now.” You will receive confirmation that the registration request was received.

Section II: For those not wishing to preregister:

  • Step 1: Log on to your computer and click to open a webpage browser (ex: Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome, etc.).
  • Step 2: Once on the home page of your webpage browser, please enter the following website URL, www.Webex.com, in the internet browser search bar on top of the browser homepage.
  • Step 3: Once on the Webex homepage, please click on “Join” in the top right-hand of the homepage.
  • Step 4: You will be prompted to enter the meeting ID number: 2330 583 3648.
  • Step 5: You will be prompted to enter the meeting password: 2023budget. Then press “ok.”
  • Step 6: Complete the form by entering your first name, last name, and email address. Press “join as guest.”

Follow these steps on Nov. 2, 2022, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to join the virtual public hearing and present your comments. The virtual public hearing can also be attended by dialing toll free 844-517-1442 and entering access code: 2330 583 3648.  

Mail, Email and Voicemail Comments

Written comments via U.S. mail can be sent to the attention of Karen Hullinger, Assistant Secretary to the Commuter Rail Board, Room 1300, 547 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60661. Comments will also be accepted via voicemail to (312) 322-1006, or email to: 2023budgetcomments@metrarr.com

. The virtual public hearing will be recorded, and a copy will be retained by Metra in compliance with Illinois law.

Accommodations

Reasonable auxiliary aids or services necessary to afford an individual with a disability equal opportunity to participate will be provided.  Persons requiring assistance are requested to notify Metra of their needs well in advance to provide sufficient time to make these accommodations. Requests for service should be made to Kim Borges at 312-322-6753.