Metra budget calls for smaller-than-expected fare hikes

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CHICAGO (AP) — Suburban Chicago's commuter rail agency says passengers will see a smaller fare increase than originally anticipated next year.

Metra on Thursday proposed a $946 million budget for 2016. It calls for a 2 percent net increase in fares beginning in February, rather than the 5 percent hike discussed last year.

The agency says it was able to cut costs elsewhere, thanks in part to lower gas prices. It also has seen higher than expected sales tax receipts.

But the 2016 budget calls for a "bare minimum" spending on capital needs. Metra officials say they scaled back needed repairs and improvements largely because of the state budget crisis.

CEO Don Orseno says without help from Springfield passengers could see higher fare increases in 2017.