CTA un-fare increases

By Editorial Board

The Chicago Transit Authority announced in a Nov. 20 press release that it hopes to close its $165 million budget deficit by raising the price for transit passes, trips from O’Hare and the reduced fare used by children, seniors and people with disabilities, effective mid-January. Base cash fare for rail and buses will remain the same.

One-day passes will increase from $5.75 to $10, three-day passes will go from $14 to $20, seven-day passes will increase from $23 to $28 and 30-day passes will increase from $86 to $100. Full fare from the O’Hare Blue Line station will more than double, from $2.25 to $5, for riders without multiday transit passes.

The CTA is hoping to target tourists’ wallets with the O’Hare fare hike and one-day pass price increase, but Chicagoans will take a substantial hit on multiday passes and reduced fares.

Making transportation more expensive for tourists is more acceptable than raising prices for people who rely on public transportation every day. Increasing reduced fare from $0.85 to $1.00 for buses and $1.10 for trains is especially unfair to seniors and people with disabilities who pay the reduced fare they’re entitled to under federal law.

It would be unrealistic to ask the CTA to keep fares static, but the increases shouldn’t include people who benefit from reduced fares. The CTA should balance these hikes by strongly targeting tourists before raising prices for passes used by Chicagoans. If necessary, fares should be increased for both groups to keep the reduced fare at the same rate.

The CTA is right to address its budget shortfall, but it and Mayor Rahm Emanuel don’t seem to care about people who need public transit to get to work every day. In a press release, the CTA refers to these as “discount reductions” instead of fare increases. This language implies that the CTA was generous to offer discounts on passes in the first  place, and now it is just being a little less generous.

The mayor didn’t seem at all concerned with how these price changes could affect his constituents when he said at a Nov. 26 press conference that commuters “can either drive or take public transportation to work,” and that the increases aren’t as impactful as a constant rise in gas prices.

Not only does this statement disregard the reality that public transit is the only affordable option for some people, but it also implies that the environmental benefits of mass transit are unimportant to him. If CTA riders who can afford to drive decide the increases are too much, there will be more cars on the road, which will cause more congestion and pollution.

Of course commuters will be upset about fare increases and “discount reductions,” and for good reason. An increase in reduced fares should not be part of the CTA’s plan to reduce its deficit. The CTA needs to raise fares to get its finances in order, but the money shouldn’t come from seniors and people with disabilities.