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Metra stepping up enforcement to make sure passengers have valid tickets

For the first time, Metra police will be helping with those efforts.

Metra ridership is slowly increasing after a major decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Metra officials say they plan to use police officers to help make sure passengers have valid tickets. | Sun-Times file photo.
Sun-Times file photo

For the first time, Metra police officers will be randomly checking to make sure passengers have valid tickets, the transit agency announced Friday.

Those who don’t have the right ticket could, potentially, be kicked off the train and/or fined.

“We’re not going to say, ‘Today we’ll be at this station spot-checking.’ That’s not how it’s going to happen,” Metra spokeswoman Meg Thomas-Reile said.

In other words, watch out!

The new policy is beginning “right away,” Thomas-Reile said.

Conductors are already doing spot-checks, but this is an attempt to beef up that effort.

“It stems from a larger view we’re taking at fare collection efforts,” said Mike Gillis, a Metra spokesman. “We’re doing some research around the country about how other agencies collect fares and whether anyone has any better methods.”

Asked if a passenger could be given the boot for a first offense, Gillis said, “We’re starting out with just sort of an educational campaign.”

“We are really looking at people who are intentionally avoiding paying our fares or buying tickets for a shorter distance than they are actually traveling.”

Metra officials say they’ve heard from many customers who support the idea of getting the right fare from each passenger.

“We do hear from people, especially around the time when we’re proposing a fare increase, who say you wouldn’t need to raise fares if you did a better job of collecting those ones that are owed to you,” Gillis said.

Metra operates trains on 11 lines with 242 stations.

Gillis said he doesn’t have a “good estimate” for how much money Metra loses each year to passengers who ride without a valid ticket or who haven’t paid the full fare.