Stop passing the buck, CTA



By Editorial Board

Chicagoans already have the highest sales tax in the nation. A recent study also revealed Chicago residents are the country’s most stressed individuals. But apparently, record highs for the city’s residents won’t end there. Under the most recently proposed CTA fare increase, local commuters will soon be paying the nation’s highest average price for public transportation.

The new increases would raise the price of per-ride fares to $2.25 from $2, for both buses and trains. Under the proposal, the CTA will eliminate the bonus for Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus users, raise the price of 30-day passes to $90 from $75 and increase the price of the student U-Pass by 20 percent.

The proposed fare increase, which has come less than one year after the massive public transit bailout, which prevented “doomsday,” is preposterous and completely unacceptable.

The quality of CTA service is nowhere near reflective of its current cost. Buses continuously break down, train delays are rampant and in many areas, service is inefficient. How many times have riders found themselves sitting on a delayed bus or train wondering if they were going to make it to work or class on time? Due to unreliable service, this continues to happen even when commuters have allowed for plenty of travel time.

The plan to increase the price of the U-Pass by 20 percent is a huge mistake. With the skyrocketing cost of college tuition and the looming credit crisis affecting private student loans, college students are being hit hard enough already.

If the proposal to raise fares passes, the CTA runs the risk of a backlash they are not prepared for. According to CTA President Ron Huberman, the CTA expects about a 1 percent decline in ridership as a result of the increase. But many Chicagoans are already voicing their frustrations and plans to avoid the CTA. In reaction to the fare increase, Chicagoans say they will either bike more often or consider carpooling.

Instead of constantly threatening fare increases and route cuts, the CTA needs to start looking at more innovative ways to cover its operating costs. Their constant mantra of raising fares makes it seem as if they are part of the Capitol Hill machine that has no better answer than to raise taxes. Like the government, it is time for the CTA to work a little harder for Chicago residents.

Although it seemed like a nice gesture, the free rides for seniors should go. Many seniors don’t want the free rides, and some even say they are offended because they are self-sufficient and don’t need free handouts. Instead of letting seniors ride for free, the CTA needs to return to the discounted fare program. CTA officials blame the free rides for seniors, instituted by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, for the current budget crisis.

The CTA also needs to spend time examining transportation systems in other cities to see what works and what doesn’t. Officials should look into how other cities are funding mass transit, as well as how they are effectively using funding dollars, in order to determine if such actions can be implemented in Chicago.

Like everyone else, the CTA should strive to be more fiscally efficient. Excessive and unnecessary spending needs to stop. Instead of waiting until they are in financial crisis, the CTA needs to cut costs along the way in order to avoid continuous threats of fare increases. If Chicagoans can’t pay their bills, they can’t show up at work and simply demand a raise. Instead, they need to learn how to manage their budget and get by on what they have. The CTA is no different. It is time for this business to stop passing the buck and start taking responsibility.