The Metra Board of Directors [last week] backed a Cook County initiative to improve transit service on the South Side of Chicago and in the south suburbs, starting with a 50 percent reduction in fares on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines in January.
The Board approved an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with Cook County to launch Fair Transit South Cook, a three-year pilot project to boost public transportation in a region that is more transit-dependent and economically disadvantaged than other parts of the county. The pilot, a priority of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and new Metra Board Chair Romayne C. Brown, will provide residents in the Metra Electric and Rock Island service area with greater opportunities to make transit their choice for getting to work, school, shopping and regional destinations.
Under the IGA, Metra will charge its reduced fare rates – normally charged to seniors, persons with disabilities and K-12 students – for all tickets to all riders on the lines starting in January. Those rates, which require no changes to Metra’s fare structure and can be implemented immediately, will be assessed as the pilot progresses. Cook County will cover the difference between the reduced fares and full fares for three years.
“Metra is excited to work with Cook County to improve public transportation in the region and act as a catalyst for economic development and growth,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “We would like to thank President Preckwinkle for her vision and financial support in bringing this project to fruition.”
Cook County believes that level of service and cost are driving factors in public transit utilization. The pilot program will examine and address these factors in phased rollouts.
“Cook County is extremely excited to partner with Metra and Pace to bring enhanced and affordable transit options to residents and workers in the Southland,” said President Preckwinkle. “This is part of our overall approach to ensure that we are equitably allocating public resources to benefit our communities with the greatest need.”
The plan also includes expansion of Pace’s 352 Halsted Service, which will improve the hours and frequency of service between the CTA Red Line 95th/Dan Ryan Station and the Pace Chicago Heights Terminal on weekdays, Saturday and Sunday. As Fair Transit moves forward, additional improvements to service options will be made.