metra

Commuters crowd the 51st-53rd Hyde Park Metra station during evening rush hour on Feb. 14. 

The new year would begin with fares within Chicago on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines declining to $2 within the city under a plan supported by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the community rail service leadership.

“Metra looks forward to implementing this pilot and improving transit on the south side and in the south suburbs,” said Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski in a statement. “We want to thank President Preckwinkle not only for her leadership on this issue, but also for Cook County’s financial assistance.”

The pilot would launch in January, after Metra board approval next month and Cook County Board approval in December.

"I guess it's almost three years ago now, we put out a long-range transportation plan, and in the course of that work we realized that the South Side and the south suburbs were underserved by transit in the region and we needed to focus our efforts there," Preckwinkle said in an interview. "The county will subsidize the fares for a three-year period on those two lines and in the City of Chicago, the fares will be comparable the CTA fares."

Fares would also decrease in the south suburbs. There is no agreement with the CTA regarding transfers, but Preckwinkle said negotiations are ongoing.

"One of the challenges that we have regionally is that we have three separate transit authorities with three separate boards, she said. (Pace, the suburban bus and regional para-transit authority, is the third.) "If you were going to set up a transit system from scratch, you'd never do it that way."

"I think it's a boon for people on the South Side of the city," she continued. "As I said, our previous work made it clear that the South Side and the south suburbs were underserved, so we're working to address those challenges."

In a statement, local county Commissioner Bill Lowry (D-3rd) also hailed the proposal.

"The residents of Cook County's 3rd District will directly benefit from the Fair Transit South Cook Pilot Program, a collaboration I am proud to support between Cook County, Metra, and Pace," he said. "We continue to prioritize equity in Cook County government, and the reduced Metra fare ensures a more affordable and accessible form of public transportation for our residents. This pilot program will lessen the economic burden facing many Cook County families and essential workers who are traveling to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Hyde Park resident Linda Thisted of the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric also voiced support for the move.

“We’ve been advocating to ‘ignite the pilot’ and bring better transit options to South Side and south suburban commuters for many years,” she said in a statement. “We are enthusiastic to see the momentum and look forward to its implementation.”

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