Chicago/ Transportation & Infrastructure
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Published on June 13, 2024
Metra Board Approves Pilot for $10-$16 Unified Day Pass with CTA and Pace in Chicago to Boost Transit Post-PandemicSource: Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a move that could bring much-needed simplicity and affordability to the daily commute, the Metra board has given the thumbs up for a unified day pass allowing for unlimited rides across the Metra, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and Pace. According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, this $10 to $16 pass reflects a savvy response to the budget crunch looming for these agencies once federal pandemic grants dry up in 2026.

The proposed Regional Day Pass, which is yet to receive the nod from both CTA and Pace, stands to be a pioneer in truly regional transportation. This first-of-its-kind pass will, for the first time, allow to easily move across the three systems, and it's set to undergo a six-month pilot to gauge its viability. The pricing model for the pass is designed to be roughly cheaper than buying separate day passes, sliding between $10 during weekends and $10 to $16 on weekdays, depending on the number of Metra zones traveled. The pilot program is pending a decision by CTA and Pace boards, with votes scheduled later in June, as mentioned in a Chicago Business article.

As the idea moves forward, practical details are surfacing: the pass is to be sold through the Ventra mobile app and will expire at 3 a.m. the following day after purchase. It's a system not unlike the Regional Connect Pass, a monthly option rolled out the previous year, aiming to incentivize and streamline the rider experience across the boards. Furthermore, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has committed to cushion the financial risk by covering up to $1 million in potentially lost fares during the test period, as per the Chicago Sun-Times.

Underneath these logistical steps lies a broader strategy to cope with a shifting transit landscape post-pandemic. With plummeting ridership striking a severe blow to revenue, agencies like Metra have already begun reshaping fare structures to be more attractive to a workforce less tied to the typical 9-to-5 in the Loop, and those traveling more during off-peak hours. "The ultimate long-term future of maintaining affordable fares, integrating fare products, and delivering frequent service depends on sustainable additional funding from the State to cover the projected annual fiscal cliff of at least $730 million starting in 2020," the RTA said in a statement reported by Chicago Business.

Chicago-Transportation & Infrastructure