SOUTH LOOP — Metra riders heading to Soldier Field to catch a Bears game this season will have to pack some extra pocket money if they plan to take the bus.
Effective this season, the cost to ride the No. 128 express bus from Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center to the Soldier Field will more than double, from $1 each way to $5 round trip, and from 50 cents per ride to $2.50 round trip for for reduced fare customers.
The fare hike was embedded in the CTA's "Crowding Reduction Plan," launched in December and approved in January, which aimed to increase service on "high-demand" bus and rail routes, in part by renegotiating contracts for specialized routes like the Soldier Field Express.
With it, came fare hikes at O'Hare and for daily, weekly and monthly unlimited passes, effective in January. But since the No. 128 bus operates only when the Bears are playing at home, fans will spend more than two bucks to get to and from Soldier Field starting this month.
In addition to increasing fare revenue, the CTA will now pay even less to maintain the express bus line, thanks to a newly-renegotiated contract with Metra announced Wednesday.
In a contract effective from Aug. 15, 2013, to Aug. 15, 2016, the commuter rail agency will increase its subsidies to the Soldier Field Express from $53 per service hour to $90 per service hour this year, according to Catherine Hosinski, a CTA spokeswoman.
In 2014, Metra's contributions will increase to $109.18 per service hour for the season, and in 2015 the train service will pay $112.46 per hour of operation, further reducing the CTA's costs to maintain the specialized line.
"Sports fans appreciate tradition, and for the past 25 years we have been providing Chicago Bears fans with a convenient travel option to get them to and from Soldier Field," CTA President Forrest Claypool said in a statement. "We are pleased that we are able to continue our partnership with Metra to offer fans quick, affordable transportation to games."
Launched in 1988, the Soldier Field Express line operates for two hours before the game until 30 minutes after kickoff, then resumes nonstop service to Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center for one hour after the game.