Peggy Curran was surprised to be the only DuPage County resident who showed up to a public hearing held by Metra Thursday night in Clarendon Hills.
After all, the topic of the hearing was a fare hike that would increase the average ticket price by 25 percent.
“I thought there’d be screaming and yelling going on in here,” Curran said as she walked out of . “I’m embarrassed.”
Metra held eight public hearings in the Chicagoland area Wednesday and Thursday for the proposed rate hikes, which if approved by Metra’s board, will go into effect Feb. 1, 2012.
The average fare would increase 25.1 percent, according Demetri Skoufis of Metra’s community affairs department. Skoufis said the fare for the average one-way pass would rise 15.7 percent, the fare for the average 10-ride pass would rise 30 percent, and the fare for the average monthly pass would rise 29.4 percent.
Metra CEO Alex Clifford wrote in Metra’s “On the Bi-Level” newsletter in October that fare increases are the result of Metra’s budget deficit. The commuter train is also looking to lock in fuel prices, make administrative cuts, and carry out “other operational efficiencies” to reduce the red ink, according to Clifford.
The DuPage County public hearing took place in Clarendon Hills from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. Skoufis and other representatives from Metra and its parent company, Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), as well as a representative from the DuPage County Mayors and Managers Conference, were present.
Curran, who lives in Willowbrook and gets off at the Clarendon Hills Metra station, said Metra would be better off making smaller, more frequent increases instead of larger, less frequent ones. The last Metra fare increase, according to Metra's Skoufis, was in 2008.
“I don’t like to pay the higher rate but I understand it,” Curran said.
Curran said she thought people didn't show up to the public hearing because it was not publicized enough, though Skoufis said dates and times for public hearings were in the Metra newsletter, on its website, in local newspapers, and on local news TV stations. (.)
Skoufis, like Curran, was surprised with the showing.
"Because of the size of the fare increase, I thought there would be more people here," he said.
Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis said he hasn’t gotten a full report of public-hearing attendance, but heard that the Homewood hearing had the biggest showing with 30 people.
“I would say most of them were lightly attended,” Gillis said.
Metra has received more than 200 emails from those who did not attend hearings, according to Gillis. He said Metra has “definitely gotten a lot of feedback” about the rate hike.
When asked if he thinks most people won’t have an opinion about the hike until it happens, Gillis said no.
“I think the word is out that we are raising fares,” Gillis said. “We hope that nobody will be surprised in February if and when it changes.”