Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by Metra210
 
Earlier this year, Metra raised its fares by as much as 30% to help erase a $53 million budget deficit. I do not know how long it will take for the higher price of one-way, 10-ride, and monthly tickets to cover the deficit, but in the meantime, I think Metra should consider some other methods that could help to eliminate it. This morning, I thought of two things that Metra could look into to help erase the financial burden.

1. Start a website selling merchandise that bears the Metra logo and that relates to Metra and its rolling stock.
2. Start a campaign very similar to IDOT's Adopt-A-Highway program in which interested persons can adopt a Metra station, or a coach car, or even a locomotive, for a nominal monthly fee.

I feel that these two methods to make some extra cash will really help Metra eliminate its $53 million budget deficit much faster than the ticket fares alone, and if they were available today, I will, without a doubt, take part in them. What do you think about these suggestions? If you know of any other ways that Metra can erase its budget deficit, feel free to pitch in!
  by Tadman
 
This kind of thinking is very positive. That said, the idea to adopt a locomotive is a tough proposition. To have civillians crawling up ladders and into oil-soaked engine rooms and around high voltage cabinets is a no-no. That leaves washing the locomotives as the only task left, and that is better accomplished with an automated wash rack.

The adopt-a-station idea is good, though. There's a lot of stations that could use a friend and it would be a good community activity.
  by Gare_NY
 
What continues to baffle me is why Metra doesn't put more emphasis on advertising in their cars. There's all that dead space between the first and second level, where a simple banner type advertisement would work perfectly. The best example of this can easily be seen on the L and in PACE buses. It seems like such a no-brainer to me, yet Metra limits their current advertising space to small little 3X3 signs in the vestibules and some signage along the platforms.

Gare
  by CHTT1
 
Adopting a station is a good idea for community groups. Many of Metra's suburban stations are owned and/or operated by local communities, but there are many that could use a good scrubbing now and again.
Adopting rail cars and locomotives is a different matter. Metra wouldn't want volunteers climbing over its equipment in yards. Donating money for the upkeep of a car is interesting, but the locomotives and cars (except for Metra Electric) and swapped among the different routes, so the Friends of Metra in Tinley Park, for instance, wouldn't care to see "their" car running on the UP North Line.

Selling Metra-logoed stuff is a nice idea, but you'd have to sell an awful lot of hats and t-shirts to put a dent in the deficit. On this topic, Metra apparently doesn't want to license its logo, you never see a Metra hat or t-shirt for sale anywhere.
  by byte
 
Gare_NY wrote:What continues to baffle me is why Metra doesn't put more emphasis on advertising in their cars. There's all that dead space between the first and second level, where a simple banner type advertisement would work perfectly. The best example of this can easily be seen on the L and in PACE buses. It seems like such a no-brainer to me, yet Metra limits their current advertising space to small little 3X3 signs in the vestibules and some signage along the platforms.

Gare
Revenue from ad-wrapping cars isn't nearly as plentiful as you'd think it is, and demand for such advertising rises and falls with the whims of the economy. Observe the CTA's fleet. Before 2008, ad-wrapped cars made up a fair chunk of the fleet, I'd guess on some lines encompassing 1/5th of the cars operating on them. It wasn't uncommon to see full 8-car sets go by, all cars ad-wrapped for the same advertiser. Now, you don't see this, because the economy isn't so hot, so potential advertisers are being more conservative and not paying to have cars ad-wrapped. (Yes, I know there are a few, but not nearly as many as there were ~5 years ago. At that point the CTA was even wrapping 2400s and 2200s.) Advertising revenue is not a constant, reliable source of income and the Metra would be unwise to pursue it as a means for finding long-term funding sources.

Of course, the best solution would be to come up with a funding formula in Springfield which actually works, so all three agencies up here can get by without having to propose doomsday scenarios every three years just to get an extra nickel, but that would require cooperation between Chicago-area and everywhere-else politicians in the state of IL. I'm somewhat hopeful that eventually this might happen, but not really holding my breath either.
  by F40CFan
 
I suggested to Metra to use "peak" and "non-peak" pricing as is done out east on either Metro-North or the Long Island Railroad. Tickets would cost more during rush-hour and anyone using a "non-peak" ticket during "peak" hours would have to pay a surcharge of $5.00 per ticket. In addition to generating revenue, it would tend to keep the casual rider off rush hour trains, reducing the need for additional equipment. They already have the "peak" trains identified as those on which bicycles are not allowed.

The idea was shot down because they didn't want to raise ticket prices. A few months later, they implemented the 30% increase across the board. That sure worked out!
  by Metra210
 
CHTT1 wrote:Adopting a station is a good idea for community groups. Many of Metra's suburban stations are owned and/or operated by local communities, but there are many that could use a good scrubbing now and again.
Adopting rail cars and locomotives is a different matter. Metra wouldn't want volunteers climbing over its equipment in yards. Donating money for the upkeep of a car is interesting, but the locomotives and cars (except for Metra Electric) and swapped among the different routes, so the Friends of Metra in Tinley Park, for instance, wouldn't care to see "their" car running on the UP North Line.

Selling Metra-logoed stuff is a nice idea, but you'd have to sell an awful lot of hats and t-shirts to put a dent in the deficit. On this topic, Metra apparently doesn't want to license its logo, you never see a Metra hat or t-shirt for sale anywhere.
What I was thinking as far as Metra selling merchandise with its name and logo on it, is very similar to what CTA has done with its CTAGifts.com website. There are plenty of Metra model trains made by KATO, Walthers, and Whittle on the market, so why can't Metra do what the CTA has done, and make extra money by selling life-like Metra trains manufactured by these, and other model train companies, on its website? Hats, shirts, etc. carrying the Metra logo should also be considered. CTA has shirts, mugs, etc., on which you can have the name of a train station printed by request. Metra should look into doing this as well.
  by Tadman
 
It is a cool idea, but I think if you'd look at CTA's financial statements, you'd see the revenue from gifts and merchandise probably doesn't add up to more than one rush hour of ridership revenue. It's a drop in the pail. There are only so many railfans that want to buy Metra model trains and gifts.

Think about it this way - if gift shops like that were real moneymakers, wouldn't all the railroad museums like IRM have a ton of cash on hand to keep everything on the property in tip-top shape? But that's not the case. Even with robust gift shop sales, IRM works very hard to raise money through donations and excursions, and they still don't have all they need to restore and house their collection.
  by byte
 
Tadman wrote: Think about it this way - if gift shops like that were real moneymakers, wouldn't all the railroad museums like IRM have a ton of cash on hand to keep everything on the property in tip-top shape? But that's not the case. Even with robust gift shop sales, IRM works very hard to raise money through donations and excursions, and they still don't have all they need to restore and house their collection.
This is exactly correct. The IRM gift shop & bookstore, used bookstore, and CTA sign sales are the museum's three outlets for selling merchandise. Each of those stores' profits are funneled into different museum funds, but the numbers are not huge - nothing you can restore the Electroliner with or anything. I wouldn't be surprised if the CTA's online gift sales profits equal IRM's in a given year, and the money we make from ours sure hasn't been a golden ticket to financial sustainability for our 6-mile railroad where people work for free and trains don't even run in the colder months. I would expect income from the CTA's online gift store to be merely a drop in the bucket in their grand scheme of finances, and the same for Metra should they ever open up an online store.
  by Gare_NY
 
byte wrote:Revenue from ad-wrapping cars isn't nearly as plentiful as you'd think it is, and demand for such advertising rises and falls with the whims of the economy.
No, no - not wrapping - I mean that 1-foot thick banner of space on the inside that exists between the first and second level of the car (basically it's the outer floor edge of the upper level). Look at how CTA and PACE run all those horizontal advertisements on their vehicles - like that. And it seems like an absolute no-brainer: you've got a captive audience. They're going to tend to notice these things.

Gare
  by spatcher
 
F40CFan wrote: In addition to generating revenue, it would tend to keep the casual rider off rush hour trains, reducing the need for additional equipment.
Why is there a need to keep the "casual" rider off the rush hour trains? A paying passenger is a paying passenger, and Metra seems to need a many of those as possible to cover their bills.
  by lstone19
 
spatcher wrote:
F40CFan wrote: In addition to generating revenue, it would tend to keep the casual rider off rush hour trains, reducing the need for additional equipment.
Why is there a need to keep the "casual" rider off the rush hour trains? A paying passenger is a paying passenger, and Metra seems to need a many of those as possible to cover their bills.
Because the marginal cost of serving an additional customer in peak hours is higher than it is non-peak hours. If you want to travel when demand is high, you should expect to pay more - that's what the theory of supply and demand teaches us. For the riders who are less time sensitive, peak and non-peak pricing gives them an economic incentive to shift their travel to when the trains are less busy and the marginal cost of serving them are less.
As was mentioned in another thread, one of the MD-W train sets recently had an additional car added to it, presumably due to increased peak demand. That set makes four round-trips per day so that's more than 300 additional car-miles being run up per day on the MD-W at some cost per car-mile.
  by F40CFan
 
Also, the casual riders tend to block seats with bags and buggies, etc. when seating space is at a premium. They also tend to congregate in the aisles and vestibules, making it difficult to get off the train. There are plenty of open seats on non-peak trains, so Metra wouldn't loose revenue. It works out east, I don't see any reason it wouldn't work here and bring in extra money.