A outbound Metra commuter rail train leaving the College Ave station in Wheaton, IL on a misty cold election night in November. Photo by Duane Rapp.
“The 10-ride is meant as a convenience media, offered as a convenience to riders to save them from having to buy 10 one-ways,” said Metra spokesman Michael Gillis. (The 10-ride ticket costs as much as 9 rides.)
The 10-ride ticket is meant to save customers money and attract them to using transit; otherwise it wouldn’t have been priced at the cost of 9 one-way tickets. Saving money is why people pre-pay for several days worth of rides on Chicago Transit Authority and Pace. Selling tickets in bulk – the 10-ride ticket comes on a single piece of paper – saves Metra money, too. And when CTA and Pace customers use prepaid fares instead of cash, those agencies spend less money having to serve as banks and driving armored trucks around town.
Metra’s board is meeting Friday and is expected to vote on a proposal to increase the price of the 10-ride tickets about 11 percent. Metra staff is expected to recommend changing the cost of a 10-ride to the cost of 10 one-way tickets, instead of nine.
Metra changed fare rules on tickets earlier this year: 10-ride tickets stop being refundable after 3 months; one-way tickets expire after 14-days instead of 1-year.
The discount elimination was discussed at Metra’s public meetings in the region this month. “Ten-ride ticket users account for about 22 percent of Metra’s ridership”, according to the Chicago Tribune. Convenience is one factor, but cost is another.
Update: The board okayed eliminating the discount, formal vote later
Transportation reporter Richard Wronski reports in the Chicago Tribune today after a Metra boarding. I’m going to break it down what’s happening.
“Let’s try to run this place like a business,” argued board member Jack Schaffer, who supported the hike. “Smart businesses price their product well.”
Businesses reward frequent patrons. Running a business means competition. Driving is Metra’s biggest competitor.
But board member James LaBelle said he was opposed to the increase because “I think its unfair to single out one set of riders.”
Board members disagreed on even calling the hike a fare increase.
But Mike McCoy, a board member from Kane County who opposed increase, said “to phrase it any other was is disingenuous.”
It is disingenuous. This is a fare hike: passengers who buy a monthly pass pay the least per trip; passengers who buy the 10-ride ticket pay the second least per trip; passengers who buy one-way tickets pay the third least per trip (also known as the most). But if the measure is approved by the board later this year, there will only be two classes of tickets (disregarding the weekend pass): monthly and single rides.
Passengers who buy the 10-ride ticket receive only a single advantage over someone who buys 10 one-way tickets: the 10-ride ticket expires later. A passenger who loses the 10-ride ticket now has an even greater loss. Metra cannot transition to a new fare medium soon enough. CTA and Pace will offer Ventra next year, increasing the number and availability of fare products and maintaining the variable-day unlimited passes.
To change how transit is funded, which ultimately determines how much fares cost, you must write your state legislator.