Metra Proposes 2018 Operating and Capital Budget

Metra, the Chicago area commuter rail service, has proposed both a 2018 operating budget of $797.2 million and a 2018 capital budget of $196.8 million. 

The operating budget includes fare increases and first-time cuts in service to close a $45 million budget deficit, which is caused by rising expenses, a reduction in state aid and disappointing sales tax revenues. The capital budget is only one-sixth of its estimated annual need. 

Metra noted a growing problem with local, state and federal subsidies for public transportation in the Chicago area. The sales taxes and state aid that fund about half of Metra’s operating budget and the local, state and federal grants that pay for most of its capital budget are not keeping up with rising costs and the aging system’s replacement and renovation needs. 

“The current situation is unsustainable, and threatens the future viability of the important service Metra provides,” remarked Metra Chairman Norman Carlson. “With the proper amount of sustained public investment, we can create a system with a long and bright future. It is clearly in the interest of the citizens of northeast Illinois for Metra to do so.” 

Normal growth in expenses accounts for approximately $30 million of the $45 million deficit for next year. Approximately $23 million is for labor and fringe benefits, $2 million is for spare parts and materials to keep equipment operating, $3 million for growth in other materials and services, and $2 million is for the cost of operating the new Positive Train Control system. The remaining $15 million is due to a shortfall in the amount of funding Metra expects from public sources. 

Metra will hold a series of eight public hearings on the 2018 proposed budget. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and provide comments.