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Access Pilot Program launches today, extending reduced fares to eligible low-income Metra riders

February 1, 2024

Beginning February 1, all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient household members living within the six-county region qualify for reduced fare rides on Metra under a pilot program launched in coordination with Cook County and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).

CHICAGO, FEBRUARY 1, 2024 – The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Metra, and Cook County today launched the Access Pilot Program, which extends reduced fares on the entire Metra system to riders experiencing low incomes. All Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient household members living within the six-county region (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will) are eligible. Applications are available in person, by phone (312-913-3110) and online at The pilot will last for 18 months, ending July 31, 2025. It is made possible through a partnership between the RTA, Cook County and Metra; Cook County will contribute $6 million with RTA and Metra also contributing funds to cover the administrative costs and any lost operating revenue. The pilot will help RTA and the transit agencies better understand issues of affordability and structure a permanent program that expands to Pace and CTA as well if funding becomes available.

Officials from RTA, Metra, and Cook County celebrated the launch of the program and collaborative nature of the partnership at an event on Thursday morning at Union Station.

“Our agencies have worked diligently to put together a program we believe will benefit the most transit dependent riders across the region,” said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden. “Starting today, riders from across the region can use their Access permits to get a reduced fare on Metra. With Metra’s new fare structure, which also begins today – every rider will have a simpler and more seamless experience when purchasing their ticket. Transit is an essential part of any thriving urban region. And though the pandemic presented our transit system with unprecedented challenges, our region’s transit agencies have and continue to adapt, innovate, and collaborate to meet the changing needs of riders.”

All SNAP recipient household members living within the six-county region are eligible for the Access Program. The total number of individuals receiving SNAP benefits in the region in 2020 was approximately 1.2 million. Of those, approximately 777,000 (63 percent) are adults and the majority reside within Cook County.

“Transit is vital to Cook County. We need transit service that is fast, frequent and also equitable,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “The Access Pilot Program is an important next step to make travel options fair for everyone, no matter your zip code or neighborhood.”

All the region’s stakeholders are eager to see the Access pilot expand to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Pace and are seeking the funding needed for that expansion. This pilot is currently only valid for Metra, and it comes as the Fair Transit South Cook program ended on Jan. 31. Fair Transit South Cook provided reduced fares to all passengers on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines. The Access Pilot Program expands this benefit to the entire Metra system, while adding an eligibility requirement for those with the lower incomes, as defined by SNAP eligibility.

“Metra is determined to continue to explore ways to make transit affordable, accessible, and equitable for all residents within the six-county region,” said Metra Board Chair Romayne C. Brown. “Partnering with Cook County and the RTA on projects like the Fair Transit South Cook Program and now the Access Pilot Program helps us to build a socially responsible organization.”

Making fares more seamless and affordable is a commitment RTA made in its regional transit strategic plan, “Transit is the Answer.” Central to expanding free and reduced fare programs is first understanding the program administrative cost and lost operating revenue borne by the transit agencies. This pilot is structured to begin answering these questions, while providing a reduced fare Metra ride to residents of the Chicago region experiencing low incomes that is a direct benefit to the qualified riders, minimizes the burden to participate and administer from a rider and agency perspective, and can be quickly implemented.

Today, the state only covers a fraction of the cost of current reduced fare programs. Fully funding existing free and reduced fares will also address a significant portion of the regional transit system’s $730 million budget gap and expanding these programs will ensure the system will remain accessible and affordable to the people who need it most.

Press Information

Melissa Meyer

Communications Manager
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