Chicago Sun-Times

CTA: What Would You Pay

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Today's CTA story told how the agency has prevented further fare increases or service cuts this year, but can't rule it out for 2010 and 2011, depending on whether it can get more funding and/or find more fat to cut. No one likes a fare increase, but is one kind preferable to another?

Would people feel better about having higher fares at rush hour, as opposed to mid-day? How about the idea of charging more for zones farther away from the Loop (which would require exit turnstyles and other big infrastructure changes)? How about an increase in cash fares - which would encourage more people to get passes or Chicago Cards?
Is a fare increase always preferable to service cuts?

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(Apologies in advance if this is a double-post --I got an error the first time I tried posting.)
I don't know what the CTA's own studies say, but my personal impression is that most riders are using the CTA to commute to work or for other non-discretionary travel. It seems really unfair to raise costs on people who don't really have another commuting option.

Chicago and Cook County residents already have a high tax burden as it is, and upping the fees for government services (like public transit) is just a tax by another name -- and it's a regressive tax at that, as higher-income residents are more likely to have cars or other transportation options. Any time you fiddle with the fee structure (such as hiking cash fares, instituting travel zones, or charging rush-hour rates,) you make it more of a hassle for occasional riders to figure out the system and thus decrease ridership. I moved to Chicago ten years ago, and I routinely have to explain the fare system to lifelong residents who have never taken the CTA because it's "too complicated".

Instead of choosing between higher fares and service cuts, I think that public transit needs more taxpayer support. Yes, taxes are already high, but public transit has a lot of benefits to businesses and to the city as a whole, and raising taxes a) wouldn't decrease ridership the way either fare increases or service cuts would and b) could be structured so it wouldn't be a regressive tax.

I understand why nobody wants to raise taxes to support public transit, but people should realize that every twenty-five-cent-per-ride increase is at least $10 per week that every CTA commuter no longer is able to spend at local businesses. In our consumer-driven economy, that's a lot of discretionary spending to eliminate. Small businesses especially benefit from public transit because part of the cost of bringing their employees and customers to them is covered by a tax pool that all businesses and individuals pay into. Public transit makes the city a more attractive place to live for young people, which is an important part of keeping the economy growing. My own decision to move here was heavily influenced by my ability to get around the city without a car.

These are hardly new arguments, and even given all the above reasons It's still politically impossible to get proper taxpayer support for public transit. But as far as I can figure, there isn't really a good alternative funding option, or even a less bad one.

Mary, I am still getting used to paying $23 dollars instead of $20 dollars for a seven-day bus pass. Really, I am. It seems every time I go to buy one I hand the person a twenty and they tell me "Three dollars!" I look perplexed momentarily until realizing it does cost twenty-three dollars.

I use to go to my bank's ATM, take out a twenty and buy a pass for the week. That was it! Now I take two twenties and you know once it is broken you spend it!


If routes and services are cut, I am use to that. It happens all the time so that is nothing new where I live. BUT STOP WITH THE INCREASES and then DECREASE the SERVICE TOO!!

I heard those big screen TVs don't cost the CTA anything, that they are supplied by a private company in exchange for the advertising revenue they'll generate. Like the bus shelters with the ads on them. Riders get some no-cost benefits in exchange for being exposed to the ads. Even if the CTA has other needs, should they turn down something like this if it is free?

Make senior citizen pay for their fare.

I support the increase for tourist and non-residents (which are usually those without Chicago Cards). I did my part and got my Chicago Card and load up every week wondering why I pay such high taxes and don't get a bonus for loading up on fares. Its not like you can get some help from the security guards they put in place at the station that are always on their cell phones and couldn't answer your questions if they were paid to do so. Now, my question is if fares are going to increase how do we expect the working poor to get to work? Would we rather have more public aid issues?

I am a public transportation rider and I don't agree with further fair hikes, because with the economy being what it is some people are working just to pay bills and get back and forth to their place of employment. What I can't understand is that if the Chicago Transit Authority is so broke where did they find the money to put up big screen televisions on some of the platforms. I saw them today at the Roosevelt station and was just blown away. With all the crime on the trains, why didn't CTA try and figure out a way to enstall security cameras or hire security to patrol the trains so that the public can ride without being concerned if they are going to be robbed or harassed by the homeless. CTA really needs to get their priorities straight and think about public safety before thinking about ways to continue to line their own pockets.

Yes, I'd rather see fare increases than lose service options. Once they cut service, it's very difficult to get riders back on those routes too.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on May 14, 2009 3:36 PM.

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