Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Joins Fair Transit South Cook Program Partners Metra and Pace to Celebrate First Year of the Pilot’s Implementation

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The pilot released its first-year report that discusses positive impacts on south Cook transit

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was joined by County commissioners along with representatives from Metra, Pace and RTA today to announce year-one results of the Fair Transit South Cook pilot with the release of the Fair Transit South Cook annual report and to discuss goals for the final two years of the program.

Fair Transit South Cook is a three-year pilot designed to provide accessible, affordable and equitable public transportation to residents and commuters in south Cook County. This program is spearheaded by Cook County’s Department of Transportation and Highways (DoTH), in partnership with Metra and Pace. Through this pilot, fares are reduced up to 50% on the Metra Electric (ME) and Rock Island (RI) lines and service on Pace Route 352 Halsted has increased by 25%. Anyone riding transit in the pilot area can benefit from the reduced fares and increased service.

“Through the Fair Transit pilot, we are addressing inequalities in transportation by decreasing fare costs that overburden south Cook residents and increasing service to provide commuters more flexibility in their travels,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “This program is an important component in achieving transit equity across Cook County.”

“Our mission is to leverage our transportation resources to support the growth and economic vitality of communities throughout Cook County,” said DoTH Superintendent Jennifer “Sis” Killen. “By making transit more affordable and accessible for south Cook residents traveling to their jobs, schools or for recreation, we are bringing inclusivity to the region’s economy.”

The pilot was planned prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the partners decided it was vital to launch in January 2021 to ensure essential workers were able to access reliable and affordable transit options. Data shows that ridership on the ME and RI lines is recovering at a faster rate than the rest of the Metra system. Lower-income neighborhoods are using and benefiting the most from the fare reductions on the ME line and the service improvements on Pace Route 352 Halsted.

“President Preckwinkle has not only displayed great leadership to advocate for this program, but she also supported it with significant funding from the County. It was a very easy decision for Metra to say yes,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “We could not be happier to be working with the County and Pace to provide reliable and affordable transportation to essential workers and other residents of the south side and south suburbs.”

“Pace is grateful for Cook County President Preckwinkle’s investment in public transportation and for our partners at Metra. Together, we have made transportation to employment, education and medical care equitable, reliable, affordable and convenient for the residents of southern Cook County,” said Pace Executive Director Melinda J. Metzger. “Based on the success of this pilot, the Pace Board of Directors voted to make these improvements a permanent part of our service.”

In the final two years of the Fair Transit South Cook pilot, Cook County is working with transit partners to implement an integrated fare payment solution with discounted transfers and a single payment system that works cohesively between each service. This integration would benefit riders beyond south Cook County by making the transit system more convenient to use across the region.

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