With Metra's biggest-ever fare hikes taking effect today, some riders may be wondering, "What about that old 10-ride ticket I have in my wallet?"
Answer: Ten-ride tickets purchased before Nov. 12, 2011, are good for one year from the date of sale stamped on the back. So one purchased in July 2011, for example, will still be good until July 2012, according to Metra.
The same thing applies to a one-way ticket that was purchased before Nov. 12. That ticket will still be valid for one year after purchase.
But to prevent riders from stockpiling tickets, Metra changed the policy for purchases after Nov. 11, the date its board approved fare increases as high as 35 percent.
Ten-ride and one-way tickets purchased from Nov. 12 through Tuesday are only valid through Feb. 29.
In 2008, after Metra raised fares 10 percent, customers looking to save money swamped ticket counters and bought more than 100,000 extra tickets.
Unless it acted to avoid stockpiling this time, Metra could have lost up to $2.7 million in revenue, the agency estimated.
Ten-ride and one-way tickets purchased before Wednesday remain refundable for one year.
Under the new policy, one-way tickets purchased Wednesday or later are no longer refundable. And, they are only valid for 14 days.
Ten-ride tickets purchased Wednesday or later will remain valid for a year, but will only be refundable for three months from the date of purchase.
In another new policy, monthly passes will be valid through the end of the month — instead of noon on the first day of the following month. Long lines of customers buying February passes were reported at ticket counters Tuesday evening.
In addition, refunds for 10-ride and monthly passes will be subject to a $5 handling fee per transaction.
The Metra board is expected to get a new member at its Feb. 17 meeting. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has appointed Stanley Rakestraw to replace Willis Pennington.
Under state law, the Cook County Board president gets to appoint one of Metra's 11 directors. Pennington had been appointed by Preckwinkle's predecessor, Todd Stroger.
Rakestraw, of Flossmoor, is vice president and chief operating officer of SCR Medical Transportation, which provides Pace paratransit service for the disabled.
Meanwhile, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District board has formally approved a 5 percent across-the-board fare increase, rounded to the nearest 25 cents, to take effect Feb. 15.
That board is separate from Metra and operates the South Shore Line, running between Chicago and South Bend. The South Shore Line shares Metra tracks and some stations.
Under the fare hike, a one-way ticket from Porter County's Dune Park Station, for example, into Millennium Station will increase to $7.25 from $6.95 and to $207.25 from $197.35 for a monthly pass.