Westbound Union Pacific West line train approaches the Oak Park station | Credit: Igor Studenkov/Staff Reporter

Most Metra riders within the Growing Community Media’s coverage area will pay less for one-way trips and monthly passes under the new fare structure that will take effect in February.

During its Nov. 10 meeting, Metra Board of Directors unanimously approved a new fare policy that reduces the number of fare zones from 10 to 4. All but one station within the Growing Community Media’s coverage area will fall into Fare Zone 2. Brookfield’s Congress Park station will fall into Fare Zone 3.

Riders traveling from Fare Zone 2 to downtown Chicago will pay $3.75 for one-way tickets and $75 for monthly passes. For example, that represents roughly a 12% decrease for one-way Oak Park riders, and a 25% decrease for monthly ones.

Congress Park riders traveling toward the Loop will pay $5.50 for one-way tickets and $110 for monthly passes. In other words, they will pay the same for one-way tickets and $10 more for monthlies.

In a major change, the fare for any trips that don’t start or end at any of the downtown terminals will be the same regardless of distance, or $3.75 for one-way trips and $75 for monthly passes. This represents a decrease even for riders who travel short distances. For example, a one-way trip between River Forest and Oak Park now costs $4.

The new fare policy will eliminate $6 unlimited ride day pass that’s good for up to three fare zone and the $10 day pass that’s good system-wide. It will be replaced with a zone-based pass with a value that will increase the farther one travels from the Loop. Riders within Growing Community Media coverage area who use the $6 pass will need to pay $7.50, and riders who use a $10-day pass will need to pay between $7.50 and $13.50 if they are traveling to and/or from the Loop. They’ll pay $7.50 if they want to travel elsewhere in the system.

While both of the current day passes can only be purchased on Ventra app, the new Day Pass will be available in physical form, as well.

The $100 Super-Saver monthly pass, which is good system-wide, is going away, too, in favor of zone-based passes. But the increase will mostly affect collar-county riders traveling to and from the Loop.

But in perhaps the most dramatic change, the 10-Ride tickets, which allow riders to take 10 trips for a price of nine, will be going away. It will be replaced by a Ventra-only “Day Pass Five Pack,” which will allow riders to buy five, one-day passes for the price of 9.5 monthly tickets. Since the price of one-way tickets is decreasing, that still represents a decrease for riders who use 10-rides for round trips in the newly minted Fare Zone 2.

Aaron Maertins, Metra’s director of operations, planning and project management, told the Metra board last Friday that they wanted to move away from tickets that are “trip-limited” and toward those that are “time-limited.” And he noted that when the trains are crowded, it’s easy for conductors to forget to hole-punch paper tickets or swipe digital ones during those trips.

Riders who buy five-packs will be able to share passes within the pack with other riders, similar to how 10-ride ticket holders can use it to pay for their companions’ fares.

Riders who board at stations that either have ticket agents or ticket vending machines now pay a $5 surcharge if they buy a ticket on the train. Maertins said that Metra will be “suspending the surcharge for the time being” to make it easier for riders to adjust to the new fare policies. He did not specify how long that would be.