Metra on July 15 will begin two yearlong test programs that it hopes will attract new riders by lowering fares from some of its stations and simplifying its fare structure.
In May, the Metra Board of Directors approved testing several recommendations that emerged from a study of its fare policies. The first was to consolidate its outer zones, thereby capping fares for trips that exceed 45 miles.
The consolidation will merge all stations currently in Zones K through M into Zone J. About 1 percent of Metra riders currently travel beyond Zone J. As of July 15, four Zone K stations (Kenosha, Antioch, McHenry and Woodstock) and one Zone M station (Harvard) will join five existing Zone J stations (Round Lake Beach, Lake Villa, Long Lake, Ingleside and Fox Lake) as one zone. There are currently no Metra stations located in Zone L.
The second test program approved by the Board will reassign some stations to different zones to adjust perceived inconsistencies between lines where nearby stations are in different zones. Station reassignments will equalize fares for customers who board at Metra stations on different lines with similar distances to downtown, and may encourage more local use of these stations.
On the Metra Electric Blue Island Branch, Metra’s test program will move the Ashland, Racine, West Pullman, Stewart Ridge and State Street stations from Zone D to C. On the Metra Electric mainline, the 83rd Street and 87th Street stations will move from Zone C to B. On the Rock Island Beverly Branch, the 123rd Street Station will move from Zone D to C.
Both pilot programs will be evaluated after a year to determine if they resulted in ridership gains and if the changes should remain in place. Metra plans to test another study recommendation later this year by introducing a one-day pass for unlimited travel between any two zones. The day pass will be available for purchase on the Ventra App only and is expected to be introduced when a new Ventra App is unveiled later this year.