Approved: Metra’s $1B Operating Budget

Written by Railway Age Staff
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The Metra Board on Nov. 10 approved a $1.1 billion operating budget for 2024 that includes a major revision to its fare structure and a new mix of fare products, as well as a $574.9 million capital budget that “continues significant investment in railcars, bridges and stations.” The proposals were unveiled last month.

According to Metra, the operating budget is 4.9% higher than the 2023 budget (excluding $65 million in added costs that will be reimbursed by Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD)), largely driven by “expected inflationary (general, medical premiums, fuel, insurance) and contractual (union agreements) increases.”

The operating budget incorporates a revision to the Metra fare structure that was proposed this summer. Under the new structure, which will take effect Feb. 1, 2024, fares will be equal to or lower than pre-pandemic levels. Major changes include:

  • Replacing the existing 10-zone distance-based structure with a simplified four-zone structure.
  • Discontinuing the promotional the $6 and $10 Day Passes and $100 Super Saver Monthly Pass.
  • Replacing the 10-Ride Ticket with a Day Pass 5-Pack available only in the Ventra app.
  • Discontinuing “incremental fares”—a surcharge to travel beyond the zones indicated on a ticket.

The operating budget, according to the agency, projects Metra will start the year at 47% of pre-pandemic (2019) ridership and finish the year at about 54% of pre-pandemic levels. This results in a projection of $243.9 million in system-generated revenues, mostly fares. To cover the rest of its budgeted operating costs, Metra will use $560.4 million in regional sales taxes and $223.7 million in federal COVID-relief funding.

Metra and the region’s other transit agencies (RTA, CTA and Pace) are projecting that COVID-relief funding will run out in 2026, creating a “fiscal cliff.” Additional funding sources, Metra said in October, must be found, or public transportation agencies must implement other budget-balancing actions in 2026 to cover the anticipated deficit.

The capital budget of $574.9 million funds 97 projects throughout the system. About 63% of the budget will fund work in four categories:

  • Bridge and retaining wall replacement and rehabilitation: $143.8 million.
  • Stations and parking rehabilitations: $77.5 million.
  • Yard improvements, including facility acquisitions: $71.1 million.
  • Railcar rehabilitation $67.6 million.

The capital budget is funded by:

  • $252.1 million in federal formula funding.
  • $117 million USDOT Mega grant for Union Pacific North Line bridges.
  • $73.8 million in Illinois PAYGO funds.
  • $130 million in RTA bonds.
  • $2 million in RTA Section 5310 funds.


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