How CTA's One-Day Fare Hike Hurts the Poor

According to 2011 CTA records, the largest percentage of one-day passes -- more than 25 percent of them -- are sold on Chicago's south side

By Carol Marin and Don Moseley
|  Friday, Apr 5, 2013  |  Updated 12:36 PM CDT
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Records show 7.7 million one-day passes were sold in Chicago in 2011 at a cost of $44.5 million. Carol Marin reports.

Records show 7.7 million one-day passes were sold in Chicago in 2011 at a cost of $44.5 million. Carol Marin reports.

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You won’t find many tourists at the currency exchange at 79th and Cottage Grove but you will find angry Chicago Transit Authority riders finding it difficult to handle a recent fare hike.

"They are furious that the increase is so much," said Paul Levin of the recently-enacted rate increase for one-day CTA bus and train passes. Levin is co-manager of the currency exchange, which according to CTA records is one of the largest sellers of the one-day pass.

The new fare structure, which went into effect last month, hiked the cost of a one-day pass from $5.75 to $10. That's a 74 percent increase, and part of what the agency labeled a "moderate" fare hike.

In both November and December, the CTA stated through press releases that it was tourists who primarily purchased the one-day "fun pass" that dates back in 1997. Transit officials now admit that was a mistake.

When asked to compare how seven-day and 30-day passes compare to the one-day pass at his currency exchange, Levin didn’t hesitate.

"The one-day pass by far gets the most traffic," he said.

According to 2011 CTA records, the largest percentage of one-day passes -- more than 25 percent of them -- are sold on Chicago's south side. Records show 7.7 million one-day passes were sold in Chicago that year at a cost of $44.5 million.

According to the CTA, Chicago’s one-day pass is cheaper than versions in Boston, Washington, and San Francisco. New York stopped using them in 2010.

Still, according to Ethan Spotts of the Active Transportation Alliance: "Anytime fares are increased or services cut it’s going to affect people with lower incomes in any Chicago neighborhood.”

Basic bus and train fares remain the same, but passes, from the one-day to the 30-day all went up last month. The largest increase occurred for the one-day pass, which the CTA says accounts for a small percentage of overall tickets purchased.

But it only takes a moment to find out how Chicago commuters feel about the price hike to $10.00.

"That’s too much money," said Reggie Myles as he stood outside the currency exchange at Garfield and the Dan Ryan. "People can’t afford that type of money every day if they’ve got to go somewhere."

"We use it a great deal and we depend upon it," said John Paul Jones of the Sustainable Englewood Initiative.

One of the allures, he said, is that the one-day pass operates on a 24-hour clock.

"You take care of a lot of business in one day and you hope you can wake up early in the morning to use a little bit of that pass again the following day," he said.

So why not just buy the 7-day or 30-day pass?

"Some weeks, some months you just can’t handle that cost," said Jones, noting that the cost of a 30-day pass increased from $86 to $100.

The CTA says most riders who purchase one-day passes can actually spend less by paying the basic fare and using transfers.
 
CTA President Forrest Claypool declined a request to comment on this report.

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