IL: O’Halloran Proposes Restoring 10-Ride Ticket Discount, Reforming Police and Other Initiatives to Move Metra Forward

Metra Chairman Brad S. O’Halloran on July 10, announced plans to roll back the price of 10-ride tickets; reform and enhance the Metra Police Department with the advice of a new blue-ribbon panel; leverage up to a billion dollars in bonding authority to tackle capital needs, and take on several other major initiatives to move the agency forward.

The plans, which will need the approval of the full board of directors, represent an aggressive effort to reset the agency’s priorities to better serve Metra riders.

“Increased reliability, a renewed commitment to the safety and security of our riders and a reinvestment in our infrastructure – these are the priorities in the days ahead,” O’Halloran said at an appearance before the RTA board.

The chairman said he would ask the Metra board at its next meeting in August to restore the discount in the price of the 10-ride ticket. The discount was eliminated in February so that the cost of the 10-ride ticket equals the cost of 10 one-way fares, up from the cost of nine one-way fares, but the change resulted in a sales decline, hurting revenue.

“Rolling back the 10-ride ticket to the previous price is the least we can do for our customers,” O’Halloran said.

O’Halloran also announced that Orland Park Police Chief and former Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy has agreed to lead a blue-ribbon panel to review reforms and recommendations to enhance the Metra Police Department and to help Metra find a new police chief. Metra’s current police chief is retiring and Metra is focused on updating the department and its mission.

“Chief McCarthy can provide invaluable expertise to help the police department, which has been strapped for resources and hampered by leadership issues,” O’Halloran said.

He said Metra should take advantage of leveraging up to $1 billion in bonding authority to help address the agency’s huge infrastructure needs. The capital reinvestment plan also calls for funding preliminary engineering and design on key projects, so Metra can have a deep bench of “shovel-ready” work, and for pursuing innovative funding and financing options.

Other priorities announced by O’Halloran include:
• Beginning work on a Wi-Fi pilot on the Rock Island line by the end of the year.
• Accelerating onboard acceptance of credit cards, including Ventra, with a goal of beginning implementation by July 2014.
• Enhancing Metra’s train tracker tool as early as this fall.
• Forming a task force, made up of key leaders from Metra, BNSF and Union Pacific, to address recent drops in on-time performance.
• Launching a new effort to spruce up Metra’s “Gateways” – the stations and cars that give riders their introduction to the Metra system. The effort will include new way-finding signage.
• Strengthening Metra’s relationships with leaders and organizations that are key to its success, including federal and state lawmakers and officials, freight and passenger railroad partners, unions and all the communities we serve.
• Working more cooperatively with the RTA, CTA and Pace, including on the regional fare payment system/Ventra, reverse commuting and “last mile” options and the transit benefits program.

“We are moving forward with an aggressive work plan and a sense of urgency to improve how we serve our riders,” O’Halloran said.