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CTA Sticks it to Cash Riders

By Matt Wood in News on Oct 28, 2005 3:35PM

CTA BusThe CTA isn't proposing any more service cuts to cover a $49 million budget shortfall this year, but they are still finding ways to piss off a large portion of its customers.

At a public hearing on the CTA's proposed 2006 budget Thursday, some riders said that the CTA should be spending its money more wisely, like to maintain its stations and communications systems, before hiking fares again. The budget proposes a 25-cent increase on cash fares and elimination of cash transfers.

Just a quarter? Big deal you might say, but when you consider some people ride two or three buses each way, that extra quarter and no transfers could add up to $6 for a one-way ride. The CTA's answer to that criticism is that riders should stop paying with cash and use unlimited day passes or the Chicago Card, neither of which are subject to a fare increase.

Chicagoist has been using the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus ever since they were introduced, and we think they are a great idea. No more fumbling for the right change as we run to catch a train, automatic refills when the card's value gets low, they're a real time saver. We ordered ours on the internet, paid for it with our credit card, and receive email updates each time the card is renewed. For us, this is second nature; we think nothing of hopping on the interweb and paying for stuff with our credit card. But we forget that many people--say, the kind for whom a few extra dollars a day for bus fare can make a big difference--don't have ready access to the internet and may not even have credit cards. So what are they to do besides pay cash and get screwed by fare increases?

We think the CTA can try harder. Sure, they're in a pinch; all public services are getting squeezed for cash. But when 40 percent of bus riders pay with cash, you can't just dismss them and say, "It's your fault for not being up to speed with technology." Any other ideas out there?