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CHICAGO — Metra riders along two lines will see fares cut in half and Pace buses are expanding service in an effort to increase equity for those who live south of the city.

Former Cook County transportation official John Yonan said a study found using transit to move between areas of the county was very challenging, which he said led to high unemployment rates, crime, and poor health outcomes.

“Over the last few decades southern Cook has experienced the 13.7% unemployment rate, and that’s 40% higher than the rest of the county,” Yonan said.

That’s part of the reason Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle sought to improve public transportation to areas south of the city.

A new public transportation pilot program called “Fair Transit” launched Monday cuts fares in half on Metra Electric and Rock Island Lines increases service on Pace routes along Halsted.

“The Southland has long been plagued by a lack of access to transportation and affordable options to get residents to their destinations. Time spent waiting on a train or bus could be the difference between keeping, or losing a job,” Preckwinkle said.

This three-year partnership with Metra, Pace, and the Regional Transit Authority aims to increase public transportation ridership and increase opportunities.

The county will foot the bill for the difference between the reduced and full fares for the duration of the pilot.

“It’s truly a game changer for the south suburbs, with improved access and more opportunities for residents of Harvey East Hazel crest, Homewood and Chicago Heights,” said Pace Chairman Rick Kwasneski.