09/17/2011 10:07 am ET | Updated Nov 16, 2011

Metra Proposes Nearly 30 Percent Fare Hike For Passengers

Facing a daunting budget deficit, Metra's board on Friday heard a proposal to increase fares for their passengers by approximately 28 percent on average.

Though the board did not agree to any specific rate increases Friday, its members acknowledged that a rate hike is inevitable given the agency's financial struggles, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Under the proposal, one-way Metra tickets would be roughly 17 percent more expensive, while ten-ride passes and monthly passes would cost 32 percent and 30 percent more, respectively.

In reference to his agency's financial status, Metra CEO Alex Clifford said that "never before in our history have we been faced with a challenge of this magnitude," according to the Daily Herald. He added that the details of the rate hike are still being ironed out.

In one piece of good news for Metra riders, the rate hikes will likely come in lieu of service cuts -- a decision in line with a rider survey the agency conducted this year, which reported that 34 percent of responding commuters would accept a 20 percent fare hike as long as few service cuts occurred concurrently. Still, 35 percent of respondents strongly opposed the same option.

As part of its recent attempts to battle a deficit that's expected to grow to $100 million by 2013, the Metra, along with the CTA and RTA, has suspended its "free ride" program for most 65-and-older passengers. Now only senior passengers who qualify as low-income are permitted to ride free of charge. The agency has also hired so-called "observers" to discreetly ride train lines and make sure that conductors are collecting fares from all passengers.

The proposed rake hikes will next be discussed during public budget hearings during the fall.

Photo by Sugar Sweet Sunshine via Flickr.