Free Rides Exceed CTA's Expectations

Non-paying ridership more than doubled from last year

By Matt Bartosik
|  Thursday, Aug 12, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 PM CDT
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Made in Chicago

Charlie Wojciechowski

A train bound for Kimball enters the CTA's Paulina Station on the Brown Line.

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There's no such thing as a free lunch, the old saying goes, but there is such a thing as a free train or bus ride ride, and those eligible have been taking advantage more than anyone expected.

Transit officials said the Chicago Transit Authority provided 2.5 million more free rides during the first half of 2010 than over the same six months in 2009, reports the Chicago Tribune.

That jump in non-paying ridership is way more than the one-million person increase that the Regional Transportation Authority, the state agency that oversees transit, had anticipated for the entire year.

Evidently, the power of a freebie is too great even for mathematics.

The free-rides program, which former Governor Rod Blagojevich pushed, has reportedly cost the CTA approximately $68 million a year since its inception in 2008, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, the CTA continues to cut bus routes, decrease bus and train service, and lay off employees.

Maybe we should've tried for the free lunch instead.

Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.

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