CTA fare hikes can be avoided

By Lauren Kelly

Chicago Transit Authority President Richard Rodriguez announced Oct. 12 that the agency is facing another possible fare increase, service cuts and a round of layoffs due to a $300 million budget shortfall. The changes would go into effect Feb. 7, 2010 if the agency is unable to generate enough revenue. The last fare increase was Jan. 1.

These “doomsday” scenarios and budget crises are a recurring problem for the CTA, which will be one of the most expensive transit systems in the U.S. to ride if the hike is approved.

But ridership isn’t lacking, evident by the millions of people who ride the CTA annually. However, upping fares may deter more people from taking public transit. The agency needs to stop discouraging people from using their service. The price of driving a car in the city would be competitive with a CTA monthly pass, which would cost $110 if fares increase in February.

The CTA should cultivate existing projects, get outside funding and eliminate free rides in exchange for reduced fares to avoid the fare hike.

For instance, the agency should not be working on new multi-million dollar projects, such as the proposed train line extensions. Instead, the CTA should be concentrating on maintaining current services. The Red, Orange and Yellow Line extensions would drain more money from the CTA and neglect ongoing projects that have been under construction for years, such as the Brown Line and Blue Line projects.

To generate money, companies could sponsor train lines in exchange for naming rights and advertising on that line. The Blue Line could be sponsored by a bank and the Red Line by a phone company. It seems a little strange, but many sports complexes already do this and make millions of dollars from it.

Also, seniors currently ride buses and trains for free. They could pay a reduced fare, possibly $1, to contribute to the funding. This would repeal former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s Free Rides for Seniors program instituted last year.

According to data published by the CTA, the transit system averaged 1.7 million rides each weekday, providing 526.3 million rides in 2008.

This city revolves around its public transit system and it needs to serve citizens at a reasonable price. The CTA needs to reevaluate its budget, search for any unnecessary spending and make sure the government knows transportation funding is a priority because it affects millions of riders yearly.