Metra overhauling fares, eliminating ticket windows

The transit agency is changing ticket prices Feb. 1, reducing zones from 10 to 4 and cutting 10-ride passes.

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Two men wait at the Metra ticketing counter at Union Station, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Passengers wait at the Metra ticketing counter at Union Station on Wednesday. The commuter rail system is closing all of its ticket windows on all of its lines, including in downtown Chicago, by Feb. 1.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Big changes are coming to Metra over the coming weeks as the commuter rail agency introduces a new fare structure Feb. 1.

Metra is overhauling ticket prices, reducing zones from 10 to 4, eliminating 10-ride passes, and closing the rest of its ticketing windows.

The new fee structure, approved by Metra’s board in November, is meant to simplify pricing and attract new riders. Like many transit agencies, Metra is facing a potential crisis with federal COVID-19 funds expiring in 2026.

Monica Carroll, 63, rides Metra three times a week to commute to Chase Tower in the Loop from her home in north suburban Antioch, about 50 miles from Chicago. She said she’s bought the monthly pass since she started her job a year and a half ago, because it was the most affordable option for her at $100.

Now, with price changes and because she lives in Metra’s new Zone 4, which is the farthest zone from downtown according to the new map, she’ll have to pay $35 more per month.

Despite the rise in price, Carroll said Metra is her only option to get to her job.

“There’s nothing I can do about it; it’s just out of my control,” she said. “I’m not upset. I understand that they need to make more money.”

Passengers walk towards their Metra train at Union Station, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Metra is changing its fare structure, with prices for one-way tickets and monthly passes based on zones.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Daniel Gockman, 25, who also commutes to the Loop three days a week for his job with Morgan Stanley, said he’s not happy with the price change. Gockman, who buys daily passes for his commute from west suburban La Grange, said he’d have to reevaluate whether it was cheaper to buy daily passes or a monthly pass.

Gockman said he now pays $6 for a daily pass. Because he lives in what will be Metra’s new Zone 3 and the new prices for a daily pass are double that of a one-way ticket, his new pass would cost $11.

“I assumed I’d have to be paying more, but not that much more,” Gockman said.

Gockman said the Ventra app has crashed when he used it previously, and he expressed concern about having more users on the platform, since ticketing windows are shutting down.

For Blake Bloodsaw, 26, who lives in Aurora, which falls under Zone 4, his monthly pass to commute to the West Loop will also become more expensive.

“I guess it makes sense if you’re traveling farther,” he said of the new prices based on zones. “But it still sucks.”

He said he would continue to use the Metra to get to work at JPMorgan Chase and Co. because even though his commuting costs are going up, it’s still better than driving.

Here’s what riders need to know:

Ticket windows closing

Metra is permanently closing all of its ticket windows on the BNSF line Monday, and on all other lines, including in downtown Chicago, on Feb. 1. Vending machines are available at the busiest stations. Metra said some of its ticketing agents would change jobs and become customer service representatives at its downtown Chicago stations.

A self-help Metra ticketing kiosk sits at Union Station, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Vending machines like this one at Union Station are available at Metra’s busiest stations.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

10-ride passes

Ten-ride passes won’t be sold after Jan. 31. The 10-ride ticket is being replaced with a day pass 5-pack, available only on the Ventra app.

Monthly passes

The $100 super saver monthly pass won’t be available starting next month. Prices will be based on zones traveled. A monthly pass will cost $75 from Zone 2 to Zone 1, $110 from Zone 3 to Zone 1 and $135 from Zone 4 to Zone 1.

February monthly passes go on sale Feb. 1. The regional connect pass will be available in the Ventra app.

Metra’s new fare zone map.

Metra’s new fare zone map.

Metra

Reduced fare program

The Fair Transit South Cook pilot on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines ends Jan. 31. It’s being replaced by a new pilot program, called Access, that offers reduced fares to anyone living in a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipient household.

One-way tickets

One-way tickets to Zone 1 will cost $3.75 from Zone 2, $5.50 from Zone 3 and $6.75 from Zone 4. One-way tickets covering trips that do not begin or end downtown (Zone 1) will cost $3.75.

Day passes or weekend passes

Day passes are priced at twice the cost of a one-way ticket. The promotional $6 and $10 weekday day passes are discontinued.

Metra’s new fare structure.

Metra’s new fare structure.

Metra

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