MRChiCity

Changes are coming

39 posts in this topic

8 hours ago, Busjack said:

Capital is capital.

The budget is the primary source. Why don't you read it instead of arguing?* Even though the Tribune is not the primary source, the expression "help fund the agency's capital program to buy and refurbish equipment" was NOT there qualified by "until state funds become available again." Maybe some of the headline links said something like that, but the article certainly did not.

You can read the CTA budget too, and tell us what the pages and pages on bond deals are and what funds are paying those bonds.

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*Page 1 says:

Last year, for the first time in the agency’s history, Metra unveiled a $2.4 billion plan to modernize its rail fleet, the first long-range rolling stock plan in Metra history. To do that, Metra increased fares to address current and future operations, equipment and other critical infrastructure needs like the federally mandated Positive Train Control system rather than respond in a fiscally irresponsible manner by kicking the proverbial budget can down the road. (emphasis added)

This is from page 19 of the budget, titled Capital Program (emphasis added):
 

Quote

Metra’s 2016 Capital program is funded through Federal Formula/State of Good Repair funds ($156.6 million). Other sources of funds that supplement Metra’s capital program include federal CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) funding ($8.8 million), and ICE funds ($4.7 million). The plan also calls for the continuation of Metra’s Capital Farebox Fund ($15.6 million). Metra’s 2016-2020 capital program tables begin on page 32 and project descriptions for Metra’s 2016-2020 program are included in the Appendix of this document (pages 34-39). Funding available from current sources is shown on page 33.

The absence of a fully authorized state capital program, delays in the renewal of a long-term federal transportation funding, and the RTA not issuing bonds in 2016 have limited the available capital dollars available for Metra to maintain infrastructure and rolling stock. The result is a continued reliance on Metra “self-help” and other local funds to support its capital funding needs and a growing backlog of capital projects.

While it doesn't explicitly say that using fare revenue for capital is temporary, that inference can be made. Though you indicated in the discussion on service dogs that you don't like that word. Any subsequent budgets will have to be approved by the board anyway, so we'll just have to wait and see what the Metra board and state government eventually end up doing. I doubt Metra wants any more bad press like they had a few years ago when they were taking money away from capital to cover the operating deficit, but I don't envision state funding coming anytime soon either.

The second page of the same statement you quoted also confirms that the fare increase covers the operating costs, not installation, of PTC:
 

Quote

By finding budget efficiencies, making management improvements and being responsible with our finances in 2015, we have determined that we can get by with a 2 percent net increase in fare revenue – $6.5 million – to pay for the new operating costs of PTC and to help fund a bare-bones capital budget.

 

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1 hour ago, Pace831 said:

While it doesn't explicitly say that using fare revenue for capital is temporary, that inference can be made.

Nope. A capital budget passed on June 30, 2016 and was signed by the governor. So your logic is flawed.

"The plan also calls for the continuation of Metra’s Capital Farebox Fund ($15.6 million)" is enough to say that farebox money is going to capital, regardless of ambiguous statements about PTC. Whether PTC involves operating costs is neither here nor there, but since you are insisting on it, what operating costs are there?

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12 hours ago, Busjack said:

Nope. A capital budget passed on June 30, 2016 and was signed by the governor. So your logic is flawed.

That's not what I meant. The "ideal" situation is for the farebox revenue to go toward operating costs and state/federal grants to cover capital. Metra is going to have large capital needs for the next several years, but with the current political climate it's too hard to predict how much state funding they can expect. The practice of using farebox revenue for capital is only being done because they have no other way to get that money. Hypothetically, if state funding could cover the entire capital program a few years from now, I bet this practice would end. I mentioned above how there was an operating shortfall a few years ago, so they diverted capital money to cover it. After a fare increase they were making enough for operating costs again, so they stopped diverting capital money. I used the word "temporary", because they do not want to use money for something it is not intended for. The example from a few years ago sets a precedent for that. I won't speculate on how long the current situation will last, though.

13 hours ago, Busjack said:

what operating costs are there?

Metra made that statement, so why don't you ask them?

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1 hour ago, Pace831 said:

The practice of using farebox revenue for capital is only being done because they have no other way to get that money.

Yes, but CTA has been doing it for decades, so it must be a consistent issue, not this state capital budget or another. Similarly, the state did not give Pace $100 million for things listed under the Pace Construction topic, but gave Pace bonding power, to be paid out of the farebox.

Metra got its bonding power 10 years ago, and then question then was why they didn't use it and how they were going to pay off the bonds. Those questions essentially got answered 2 years ago.

The whole thing is a pyramid of debt--the state sells bonds and then uses the proceeds to subsidize RTA bonds. Similarly, the direct state aid for the Red Line project, Pace CNG buses and South Campus, and the 160 Metra Electric cars and a couple of Metra stations is all bond money borrowed by the state, covered by the pop tax and video poker, among other things.

Finally, the transit TIF, discussed elsewhere, also was not state aid,but the state authorizing a means by which to raise it, theoretically.

1 hour ago, Pace831 said:

Metra made that statement, so why don't you ask them?

As I indicated, I was not interested in the ambiguity. Nonetheless, it is coming out of the farebox, however categorized.

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On 7/30/2016 at 10:57 AM, Tcmetro said:

MARC Weekly and Monthly fares (https://mta.maryland.gov/marc-fares) are good for local bus connections.

 

But only available between the named stations indicated on the ticket, unlike Metra whoes ten-ride and monthly tickets are available on any route.

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Metra has released a survey about potential changes to the fare system, available until March 31.

I personally like the idea of the one day pass.

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2 hours ago, Pace831 said:

I personally like the idea of the one day pass.

On that one, it depends on what multiplier they are using. Since they are saying "similar to a Monthly Pass" a monthly pass normally costs about 28 times a one way fare, and is assumed to provide 44 rides (or about a 64% ratio). However, if you use it on two lines in the same zone (such as Lisle/CUS/Deerfield) you get 88 rides. Also, if they stick to paper, they'll have to find a way to make sure you don't give it to someone else.

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17 hours ago, Busjack said:

On that one, it depends on what multiplier they are using. Since they are saying "similar to a Monthly Pass" a monthly pass normally costs about 28 times a one way fare, and is assumed to provide 44 rides (or about a 64% ratio). However, if you use it on two lines in the same zone (such as Lisle/CUS/Deerfield) you get 88 rides. Also, if they stick to paper, they'll have to find a way to make sure you don't give it to someone else.

In the survey, it said a one day pass would cost the same as two one way tickets. The "similar to a monthly pass" reference just means that it has zone limits, as opposed to a weekend pass.

Another proposal was a 7-day pass, for the price of 8 one ways. One question asked about replacing 10 ride tickets with 7 day passes.

The "hand it to someone else" issue is the same one they already have on weekends. There's no practical way to enforce it. I also wonder whether 1 day passes would be sold on board, which would require conductors to carry an extra ticket book.

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7 hours ago, Pace831 said:

In the survey, it said a one day pass would cost the same as two one way tickets.

But then they are essentially giving away any ride over than 2 However, they do the same thing by saying that a monthly is good on any line except the South Shore between the same zones. There seems to be more upside for Metra, though in getting  (assuming E to A) $185 in advance compared to $6.50.

7 hours ago, Pace831 said:

The "hand it to someone else" issue is the same one they already have on weekends. There's no practical way to enforce it.

Weekends, they are just trying to round up some business to justify running a 6 car train once every two hours or so. Weekdays the trains run pretty much to  capacity, so there's less reason to give that big of an incentive.

7 hours ago, Pace831 said:

I also wonder whether 1 day passes would be sold on board, which would require conductors to carry an extra ticket book.

I suppose they could have some sort of buy in advance policy, but since they are cutting down on agents, and most suburban stations don't have an agent after 1 p.m., that would be tough. I suppose they could do something like the ME and say you have to buy it from a vending machine. But if they are going to that extent, they should go to a real paperless system using the Ventra card, instead of just the Ventra app (which I don't consider the universal system mandated by a farcical state law, because app doesn't have an NFID method to access the Ventra readers on CTA and Pace).

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12 hours ago, Busjack said:

Weekdays the trains run pretty much to  capacity, so there's less reason to give that big of an incentive.

Daily Herald article on the chairman du jour. What's relevant here is that Metra is at best looking for off peak passengers.

The status quo at Metra is jammed rush-hour trains to and from Chicago on weekdays. At off-peak times or for reverse commuters, there are plenty of empty seats.

BTW, he has something else wrong. The zone fare system goes back to the 1970s. Before then, each station had its own fare. Maybe in the 1850s it was a nickel to ride to Galena, if the train went that far (indications are it didn't).

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21 hours ago, Busjack said:

But then they are essentially giving away any ride over than 2 However, they do the same thing by saying that a monthly is good on any line except the South Shore between the same zones. There seems to be more upside for Metra, though in getting  (assuming E to A) $185 in advance compared to $6.50.

Weekends, they are just trying to round up some business to justify running a 6 car train once every two hours or so. Weekdays the trains run pretty much to  capacity, so there's less reason to give that big of an incentive.

I suppose they could have some sort of buy in advance policy, but since they are cutting down on agents, and most suburban stations don't have an agent after 1 p.m., that would be tough. I suppose they could do something like the ME and say you have to buy it from a vending machine. But if they are going to that extent, they should go to a real paperless system using the Ventra card, instead of just the Ventra app (which I don't consider the universal system mandated by a farcical state law, because app doesn't have an NFID method to access the Ventra readers on CTA and Pace).

This got me thinking that most of the effects come down to whether peak pricing is implemented (and I bet it will be). Prices of all ticket types except weekend passes are based on multiplying the one way ticket cost. So what happens if there are two prices for one ways - peak and off peak? If 10 ride tickets are kept, would there need to be a "peak" stamp or punch box? The proposal to replace them with 7 day passes raises a similar issue. If they would be priced the same as 8 one ways, the implication is that the calculation would be based on peak price one ways. The same applies to 1 day passes, priced at 2 one ways. That leaves monthly passes, which currently cost the same as 28.5 one ways. It's hard to say whether peak pricing will change the multiplier, especially considering that any fare structure changes would probably be implemented at the same time as the next annual fare increase in February.

We also have to consider who uses each ticket type. Monthly passes are almost exclusively used by rush hour commuters. Other than the person Busjack knew, people in this group usually make no more than one round trip on most weekdays. Rush hour riders can expect to see their fare go up due to peak pricing.

The next group is those who use 10 ride tickets. This group isn't as well defined. 10 rides are used by rush hour commuters who don't take the train more than a few times a week, as well as occasional leisure travelers. If 10 rides were replaced with 7 day passes, most of this group would probably switch to 1 day passes instead. It's almost misleading to use the word "replaced", as 10 rides are useful for occasional riders, but 7 day passes have too much of a time constraint to be considered by that group. For someone who doesn't always ride at the same time of day, 10 rides are less useful if they require paying a surcharge or buying another ticket to travel on a rush hour train.

One proposal would make weekend passes valid on Friday nights. I've actually heard several people under the false impression that they already are. I have no doubt that there is demand for this change, especially among college students going home for the weekend. Many workers have the day off or go home earlier on Fridays, so this may also be a way to fill seats. If nothing else, I bet the price of weekend passes will increase.

It seems a goal of these proposed changes is to increase nontraditional ridership. That includes off peak travel, transfers between lines, and non-work trips. My conclusion is that the proposed changes do have potential to attract new riders to those markets, especially the 1 and 7 day passes. However, current riders can expect to pay more due to peak pricing and possible elimination of 10 ride tickets.

On the vending machine point, I don't see that happening either. Metra doesn't want any more capital projects right now. That's probably the same reason that the list of potential changes has been narrowed to ticket types, rather than more substantial changes to zone structure or collection methods.

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4 hours ago, Pace831 said:

Rush hour riders can expect to see their fare go up due to peak pricing.

Which leads to the addition that they said reverse commute trains are not full, but Metra is certainly serving reverse markets to Lake-Cook, Lisle and Naperville.

4 hours ago, Pace831 said:

It seems a goal of these proposed changes is to increase nontraditional ridership.

Obviously, it isn't to encourage rush hour, but your earlier questions about peak pricing raise whether the intent is to raise peak fares or lower off peak ones.Given it is a spoke system, the Loop is not the attraction it once was,although I suppose if the point of the trip is to get the kids to the Art Institute, one would leave after 9:30 and go home by 3:00. However, the basic fly in the ointment is unless you are going to a Loop attraction or the Museum of Science and Industry, you still need to transfer to CTA.

4 hours ago, Pace831 said:

On the vending machine point, I don't see that happening either. Metra doesn't want any more capital projects right now. 

But that probably also depends on if they can find a method like CTA did to unload fare collection responsibility on Cubic or some other company (which was the originally stated intent). As I indicated above, I don't think that the Ventra app is the ultimate solution, although Metra should say something about the percentage of paper tickets eliminated by its use.

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