Metra CEO gets $28,000 raise after fares go up

December 15, 2016  Illinois Policy

Metra CEO Don Orseno is set to receive a pay increase a month after Metra’s fare hike.

Metra CEO Don Orseno has just been given a raise to the tune of $28,000. The Metra board unanimously approved the raise Dec. 14, saying Orenso was overworked and undercompensated in comparison to other large city commuter rail CEOs.

Orseno’s raise is retroactive to Oct. 1 and the increase will take his annual, six-figure salary to $317,500 from $289,000.

But if Orenso’s pay was tied directly to Metra’s performance record, it’s doubtful the CEO would be enjoying such a generous bonus. Metra has shown time and time again an inability to handle even the slightest of easily foreseeable problems. In 2014, Electric District trains, serving the South Side and suburbs, managed to run on schedule more than 97 percent of the time, while BNSF Line passengers traveled to and from Aurora were on time just 89.7 percent on time. In other words, as the Tribune points out, about 1 in 40 Electric District trains arrived late last year, while about 1 in 10 BNSF trains were delayed.

In November 2016, passengers returning from the Cubs World Series victory rally faced delays and poor customer service, and the best Metra could do was offer a tweet suggesting fans stay in Chicago.

Currently, Metra commuters are experiencing increased delay times in dangerously cold weather because of mechanical problems on the tracks. Oresno and Metra officials apparently could not make adequate enough preparations for winter temperatures.

Orenso’s incredible job comes with a price tag for commuters.

In November, Metra approved a fare hike effective in 2017. The hike will raise fares an average of 5.8 percent with monthly commuters paying an additional $11.75.

Hiking fares has become something of a tradition for Metra. The fare hike set for 2017 marks the third time in three years the Metra board has decided to raise ticket prices as part of its 10-year, $2.4 billion modernization plan passed in 2014. However, the continued poor management of funds is casting doubt on Metra’s best laid plans. In 2015, Metra spent nearly twice as much as it took in, with nearly $350 million in losses before deprecation despite having 81 million passengers.

Instead of passing the price of Metra’s financial bungling onto middle and working-class passengers, the Metra board should cut costs and reform its bad practices in order to run as efficiently and cost-effective as possible. This regressive raise in fares will come at the expense of people who can least afford it. Illinoisans already face some of the highest property taxes in the nation, and the last thing they need is to be squeezed for more because Metra refuses to enact reforms. Perhaps, the board should look to its most recent decision as a fitting example of the larger problem.

TAGS: Metra, transportation

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