With Metra ridership still less than half of pre-pandemic levels and gas prices skyrocketing, the commuter rail service will soon test a new, cheaper monthly pass.
Metra will sell monthly passes for $100, valid for unlimited travel on the rail system, for use beginning in July. The Super Saver pass will be offered for a three-month trial period, after which Metra will evaluate whether to continue the offer.
Regular monthly passes now cost between $116 and $275, depending on the distance traveled.
The reduced monthly pilot program comes as ridership across Metra’s 11 lines Tuesday was about 40% of an average weekday in May 2019, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said. The rail agency provided 110,763 passenger trips.
Metra CEO Jim Derwinski pointed to current high gas prices. According to AAA, the average price for regular gas in the Chicago area Wednesday was $5.41, more than $2 higher than the average price a year ago.
“Metra’s recovery from the pandemic requires that we look at all the options on the table to reinvent our service by listening to My Metra riders, creating new schedules, and exploring fare incentives that allow riders to return or try our system at affordable rates,” Derwinski said in a statement. “We’ve been fortunate that regional sales taxes, which support our operations, have remained strong, allowing us to use some of our federal COVID-19 relief funding in more creative ways that directly benefit our riders.”
Metra has been steadily tweaking schedules and adding service across several lines as ridership ticked up and the agency anticipated the return of more weekday office workers, who often have different work and commute patterns than pre-pandemic.
In another attempt to draw back more riders, Metra earlier in 2022 began offering a new, $6 daily pass valid for unlimited rides within three zones. The pass joined a $10 daily pass unveiled earlier during the pandemic valid for unlimited rides on all Metra lines.
The new monthly pass will include reduced fares for eligible seniors, grade-school students and children, who can buy it for $70. The reduced fare also will apply to riders on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines, which are participating in the Fair Transit South Cook Pilot that slashed fares on the lines serving the south and southwest neighborhoods and suburbs.
Passes for July will go on sale June 20.