Here's the scoop on "penny" New Year's Eve rides
For many years (I'm not sure exactly how many), the CTA has offered bus and train rides for just a penny on New Year's Eve. And they'll do it again starting at 8 pm tonight.
But the truth is the rides are free. Bus drivers just wave riders past fare boxes covered with "Happy New Year!" stickers. And turnstiles at train stations are open, and festooned with similar stickers. You see, the CTA can't legally advertise free rides, and it also doesn't actually accept penny fares any longer. Also, it would be cost prohibitive to reprogram fare boxes for just 10 hours anyway. Thus, tonight's a freebie.
And it's a good thing, so I really don't want to hear from any of you about how the CTA can't afford it, etc. blah blah, etc. In 2004, the Sun-Times reported it cost the CTA about $150,000. It's probably not a whole lot more than that this year, certainly less than $200K. Seems reasonable to me, especially if it keeps drunk drivers off the road and potentially saves even one life.
The CTA has had minimal sponsorship interest in the penny fare program since they no longer allow alcoholic advertising -- which are a natural tie-in for this.
All train lines are running longer than usual tonight. Take advantage of this great program and keep the roads -- and yourself -- safer.