FILE - Metra, Illinois, mask, Virus Outbreak Illinois

A man wears a mask as he sits in a Metra train at the Glenview Amtrak/Metra Station in Glenview, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. All customers are now required to wear a mask or face covering while using Metra, a commuter rail system in the Chicago metropolitan area serving the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs. 

(The Center Square) – Metra announced a new $900 million budget, that restores services on all lines to pre-pandemic levels and keeps ticket prices flat in 2022.

The 2022 Metra budget includes money from fares and other system-generated revenue. The agency also is using about $300 million in COVID-19 relief funding.

Michael Gillis, a spokesperson for Metra, said that with ticket prices remaining the same, the goal is to get more people back on Metra.

"Our ridership will begin the year at about 25% of where we were at the same time in 2019," Gillis said. "We will hopefully finish the year at about 35%."

The transportation industry as a whole took a hit in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic dropping ridership to just a quarter of where it was pre-pandemic. Gillis said that is part of the reason Metra will not be increasing ticket prices.

"We try to not increase fare prices when we do not have to," Gillis said. "In this situation during COVID, public transportation is really at a crisis and seeing massive declines in ridership."

Metra also is introducing a new $6 day pass, which is cheaper than last year's $10 day pass. The pass is good for travel across three zones and the hope is that more people will take their shorter trips on Metra.

With Metra planning for more riders in 2022, Gillis wants Illinoisans to know they are taking the correct steps to ensure rider safety from COVID-19.

"We have adopted new cleaning protocols and are sanitizing each train car daily," Gillis said. "We also have started a new ad campaign to let people know that they can Commute with Confidence when using Metra."

Staff Reporter

Andrew Hensel has years of experience as a reporter and pre-game host for the Joliet Slammers, and as a producer for the Windy City Bulls. A graduate of Iowa Wesleyan University and Illinois Media School, Andrew lives in the south suburbs of Chicago.