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Analysis of proposed CTA fare hike and its effects on riders

Unless you were hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours and just came up for air at this Internet address, you heard about the proposed CTA fare increase. Key provisions:

  • Bus fare increases from $1.75 to $2, whether you use a Chicago Card or transit card.
  • Train fare increases from $1.75 to $2.25 for Chicago Card users, and from $2 to $2.25 for transit card users.
  • The 10% loading bonus for $20 put on a Chicago Card is eliminated.
  • Transfer price remains at 25 cents.
  • A monthly pass increases from $75 to $90.
  • No service cuts.

And remember, this is "proposed." Da Mayor has already said: "We're looking at it. . . . There's no OK on this. I don't know where you are getting that. . . . They can announce it. Like you announce things and then you negotiate. . . . We're looking at it very carefully with the economy and other issues."

So what does it all mean for the average commuter? For the sake of argument, let's define the average commuter as a person who takes only one rail line to work, with no transfers.

Right now, if that person is using a Chicago Card, he gets about 12.6 rides per $20 ($22 with the loading bonus divided by $1.75 per ride).

After the increase, that person will get about 8.9 rides per $20 (no bonus, so $20 divided by $2.25). That's a 30% decrease in ride purchasing power.

Right now, if that person is using a transit card, he gets 10 rides per $20 ($20 divided by $2 per ride).

After the increase, that person will get about 8.9 rides per $20 ($20 divided by $2.25). That's just an 11% decrease in ride purchasing power, compared to 30% for the Chicago Card user.

Now, let's parse the price for a monthly pass user, whether with a transit card or Chicago Card. For the sake of argument, let's say the average month has 21 work days, and again this person takes only one round trip on a train per day, with no transfers.

Under the current $1.75 fare, 21 round trips would cost that person $73.50 per month, so unless he made at least one more trip, he would be giving the CTA $1.50 each month in free money with the current $75 price of the monthly pass.

But under the proposed $2.25 fare, 21 round trips would cost $94.50, so he'd be getting $4.50 worth of "free rides" from the CTA at the new $90 monthly price. And if that person is in the 25% tax bracket and using the Commuter Transit Benefit, he's buying the pass with pre-tax dollars and saving even more. Of course, that's true even if you're not using the monthly pass.

But let's get back to those not using the monthly pass. MK made some good points in asking why Huberman is trying to discourage the use of the Chicago Card. He says the CTA has "completely dismantled any incentives for people to use a Chicago Card. Completely."

But I disagree. One of the key reasons for me to use it is to protect against losing the card, and to not have to worry about ever filling up the card at a machine. I use the monthly pass and get the cost taken out of my paycheck monthly via the Commuter Benefit. But even if I didn't have that benefit, I would have the CTA take it from my credit card account.

And personally, I think it's the right thing to do to increase fares more for those who use the Chicago Card than for those who don't. I know people like Martha may disagree with me, but I just think it's fair.

Bottom line, I'm OK with the increase, and I'll get even more rides out of my monthly pass, even though it will cost me $15 more. But that $15 would buy me about four gallons of gas, which would tak eme about 80 miles at 20 miles per gallon. For me that's the cost of driving to work four days. Yep, I'm OK with it.

Comments

The Chicago Card has a convenience factor to it that provides a benefit in its own right. I think the price discrimination was probably needed to encourage people to make the switch to the card at first - people hate change - but once people have adopted it, I don't see them going back. The CTA can always adjust if adoption goes down.

The author of the post says, "I think it's the right thing to do to increase fares more for those who use the Chicago Card than for those who don't... I just think it's fair"

I'm not sure I follow your logic. How can increasing fares more for one group (Chicago Card users) than another be "fair?"

Chicago Card Plus users like have to reveal our personal credit card information to CTA. I also have agreed to allow them to top up my Chicago Card balance when it drops below a certain amount. Currently, by allowing these intrusions, I've been getting a discount, but if that discount goes away, then what's my incentive to give CTA access to my credit card info?

The CTA may wish to take note of the iPass system. Drivers provide them credit card access which also does the automatic top-up thing, and in return the iPass program provides a significant discount over the cash toll price.

I'm going to pay 0.50c more a day to ride the L. I think in these economic times, I can handle it.

There is still the incentive on any card that you still get a bus transfer, which you don't with a cash fare. Also, as a mirror argument to what was indicated in the comments, a Chicago Card is easier to recharge if you aren't near an L station vending machine.

The real question is what money is Daley going to use to block his man Huberman's fare increase? Daley must know that he can't go back to Kruesi's view that this was the legislature's problem to solve. They got their RTA tax increase (and had free rides foisted on them as a condition) and already spent it.

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I'm not sure I follow your logic. How can increasing fares more for one group (Chicago Card users) than another be "fair?" - bonmot
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The increase to the fare might be more ($.50 vs $.25), but the resulting fare cost IS THE SAME - all bus riders go to $2 (except those who pay cash), all rail riders go to $2.25.

That's an increase of $.25 for all but the subset who use rail and currently pay with a per ride Chicago card (who get the $.50 increase) and will now pay the same as other rail riders. (Bus transit card riders are only seeing a $.25 cent increase since their fares weren't discounted like rail fares were for CC users)

Regardless, look for some negotiation with/by the CTA board. They changed several aspects of Ron's budget last year before presenting to the RTA.

Thanks for breaking that down Kevin. Your take makes a lot of sense.

There is still the incentive on any card that you still get a bus transfer, which you don't with a cash fare. Also, as a mirror argument to what was indicated in the comments, a Chicago Card is easier to recharge if you aren't near an L station vending machine.

The real question is what money is Daley going to use to block his man Huberman's fare increase? Daley must know that he can't go back to Kruesi's view that this was the legislature's problem to solve. They got their RTA tax increase (and had free rides foisted on them as a condition) and already spent it.

Before the haters all wake up and go nuts here: Kevin, that is a very interesting and useful take.

Also, this fare increase is pretty reasonable, and in light of changes to things like . . . gas prices . . entirely understandable.

I have the light blue Chicago Card (not the Blue and Yellow one). I understand that the CTA gets my money to hold on to. I can live with that. The convenience of knowing I can junp on any CTA conveyance and just swipe my card is what I have the card for.

The thing about the iPass (referenced above) is that I would pay regular tolls to use it. Hell, I'd pay a premium. No change, no stop, no line at the booth, no worry about getting Sonny Corleoned.

The other thing to note here is they are trying to discourage rail use. Shouldn't buses be more because they have to pay gas and transport fewer passengers?

The problem I have with all these comments is that people seem to be treating the CTA like a private business. Saying things like "I would pay a premium" is ridiculous for a public service. I would pay cost and exactly cost to ride the CTA. I don't feel like that is what I am paying.

the biggest incentive for me to have a Chicago Card all along was the convenience. Those cheap plastic cards you need to insert in the turnstile bend and break too easily, and the machine almost always spits it back out a few times a week without working.

Also, I don't have to go to the store to buy a new card each month, or buy a few months' worth at a time.

The convenience of the smartcards is one reason I bought one for DC, even though I lived in Baltimore and only went to DC a few times a month. So much easier.

The fare increase is necessary. Everything else costs more, there's no reason to expect transit fares to stay down. There are always political reasons to argue for cheaper fares, but when gas and electricity cost more, we have to pay more.

All in all, still cheaper than driving.

"And personally, I think it's the right thing to do to increase fares more for those who use the Chicago Card than for those who don't. I know people like Martha may disagree with me, but I just think it's fair."

I don't disagree with losing the bonus. Having my $6 per month of reload bonuses taken away isn't going to kill me. I am well aware I derive great benefit from having a pool of disposable income and a credit card and the ability to put excess fare value on my CCP. As someone who works with a low income population, I have always thought it is terribly unfair that an individual who is living paycheck to paycheck doesn't get the same benefit and, yet, could use it much more than I.

What I object to is Huberman's assertion that just because someone lives in an "affluent" zip code, that he or she is therefore affluent and able to bear the increased cost. As I pointed out in one of my many (probably too many) posts yesterday, he is earning 4 times as much annually and lives in what is considered to be a less affluent zip code than I, yet by his assumption, I am more able to absorb the cost. As usual, he got bogged down in the B-school speak by using the word elastic, which is an inelegant way to tell consumers it is assumed they can pay more. He would have been much wiser to point out the disposable income/credit card/automatic reload factor for CCP users rather than rely on geographic demographics. CCP users are most likely CTA's most fluid users because this group has the disposable income to drive but chooses transit. Riders who use transit by choice are the first to go when gas prices decline, which is occurring as we speak. While I have huge problems with society's tendency to coddle the affluent, I think RonH could have pitched the decision to remove the reload bonus a little more artfully.

I also wonder if CTA fully thought out the full ramifications of removing the reload bonus from CCP. A lot of users object to CTA holding the private data needed to facilitate use of the CC/CCP. If the economic incentive to use them is taken away, those who object may opt not to continue to use them. Increased wear and tear on the machinery that dispenses and reads the magnetic strip cards, along with revenue processing costs, could add up to a huge expense. I also think CTA may have difficulty introducing new fare media in the future, such as a transit debit card that can be used to make purchases at transit-oriented development concessions as well as pay fares. A lot of CCP users commenting on other boards feel like CTA pulled a bait and switch by getting them to adopt the CCP and then taking away the incentive. I don't agree with that reasoning, but I think it could add to CTA's on-going public perception problems if and when they try to introduce a transit debt card.

While this may not seem like a big deal, CCP users are, in effect, giving CTA an interest-free loan. When I wasn't using transit daily, I would often have a balance of at least $20 on my card, which would go unused for months. That doesn't seem like much, but multiply that by thousands of cards and it becomes real money and could go away if people choose to stop using CCP. A tiny drop in the bucket of a $1.3 billion budget, but still....

I'm certainly not going to stop using my CCP. It's far too convenient regardless of the reload bonus. I really appreciate the fact that my balance is protected. I have never had any qualms about CTA having my private info. In the 5+ years that I've had my CCP, I have not had any issues. Further, I would never switch back to transit cards because I don't live close enough to a rail station to make it convenient and I'm not going to buy a weekly or monthly at Dominicks/CVS/currency exchanges. Most importantly, unlike some of the foamers on the Trib boards I'm absolutly not threatening buy a car and start driving again because I'm going to be paying roughly $25 more per month for transit.

Attention Ron: I've said before that I would accept some fare increase, and I meant it. But for this large an increase, you WILL use some of that money to address the remaining passenger-friendliness or quality-of-ride issues that we keep trying to tell you about. Think of it as a non-negotiable demand or think of it as simply doing the right thing, but do it. If you want a fresh list, just ask Blogmaster Kevin to have us put one together for you.

Of course, some of these issues are more a matter of policy than money, and might actually save you some. You could start by disbanding the customer service department whose mission is to insulate the CTA from customer feedback.

Yeah, this seems pretty reasonable... For 30 day pass users, we're finally getting to experience Doomsday #1! Actually the increase is more than what it would have been under Doomsday #1. Yeah!

What is the deal with the CTA and unlimited passes? They seem to want to just eliminate them. They refuse to sell them from their vending machines, and now they're going to raise the hell out of the price. Actually under this proposal, they are starting to eliminate a few of the more marginal ones.

What gives? Is the CTA trying to turn itself into more of a commuter-oriented agency? Do they want to drive down ridership on weekends? This seems like a tremendous mistake, policy-wise.

Sounds like a monthly pass might actually be worth it for once.

Do I object to paying more, not really, making coffee at home instead of purchasing on the go makes up for it.

What I object to is this is being made partially necessary becuase I'm subsidizing those who don't need it because of the free rides spree that the governor started.

Tell you what, have that repealed, or at least partially. Let's go back to 1/2 price for all seniors (compensation for their "paying into the system all those years") but free rides is proven needs-based.

If a free ride is really that much of a relief to your daily tax burden you should be willing to show it. Some will still find ways around it, but most seniors I've talked to while they like having a free ride (who doesn't?) are willing to go back to 1/2 price, especially since it will actually be less than 1/2 since reduced fares aren't being raised.

How about it Gov? Repeal it and you won't here another peep from me about the current hike.

"What gives? Is the CTA trying to turn itself into more of a commuter-oriented agency? Do they want to drive down ridership on weekends? This seems like a tremendous mistake, policy-wise."

I've noticed the same trend over the last few months, particularly with regard to capacity. Four-car Brown Line trains on the weekend just don't cut it, yet nothing is done to fix the overcrowding. Same with some bus routes that use articulated buses during the week, but are equipped with regular buses on the weekend despite having only a small reduction in passenger load.

I understand electricity and fuel aren't cheap, but I don't think I should have to wait for two buses or trains to pass by at 10pm on a Sunday night before I can squeeze my way onboard...

Here's the part of the Tribune's story that I don't care for:

The biggest hit would be felt by Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus customers, who according to a CTA analysis live in more affluent ZIP codes than riders who pay cash fares or use regular transit cards.

"Our Chicago Card customers are more elastic in their ability to absorb fare increases," said CTA President Ron Huberman.

-- http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2008/10/cta-announces-2009-budget-this-morning.html

Huh? I can deal with losing the bonus, but I think we should get a quarter-a-ride discount for using the cards when taking the trains. My budget's not elastic at all at the moment.

There's a story on the Trib website today about how riders will be able to use a new fare card to rent a car from I-Go. How many people will use that? It makes more sense for Metra than CTA riders, I suspect. Here's the link:
http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2008/10/cta-fare-card-can-get-you-a-rental-car-too.html

Plenty of people will use it. More CTA riders do not have cars than Metra riders. I use ZipCar for the time I need a car to pick up something big or run lots of errands that would take much longer on the CTA. If they had one for the ZipCar I would use it in a heartbeat.

I think that getting rid of the 2-day pass is a mistake. I know a lot of weekend visitors use that for getting around. The 5-day pass never seemed very useful to me, but I suppose that someone must have wanted it. I usually just got a 7-day pass instead since they were easier to come by and didn't cost much more. I guess that not being a daily rider I could probably take more of a hit in a fare increase, but there will come a point where other options could start to make more sense for me (especially as fuel costs decline). Having speed and reliability (as well as safety) as priorities make the system more valuable, and as such I would be willing to spend more to ride. Personally, I'd rather see a fare increase than service cuts or deferred maintenance. After all, you can't ride a bus or train that isn't there.

Regarding the I-Go partnership: "We see this as a strategic partnership to get people to drive a car less often," said CTA president Ron Huberman.

Hey RonH, how about a strategic partnership with your current riders, especially those transit-dependent by choice? How about you stop with the bells and whistles until all buses and trains are consistently clean, run on time, and CTA personnel are consistently helpful and courteous. That would go a lot farther in getting people to drive a car less often than the ability to have a mixed use transit card. I don't carry my I-Go card around with me all the time as I do with my CCP. I only put it in my wallet if I know I'm going to use I-Go, which isn't very often so I wouldn't even be interested in the new card.

"The cost of the experimental program to the CTA is $49,000," Fowler said. Coming on the heels of a proposed fare increase, this is extremely ill-timed. What's the payoff for CTA? Increased ridership? How many more new riders would be added and does that number translate to $49K in additional revenue to cover the start-up costs, not to mention ongoing costs? I doubt it. Further, it's unlikely CTA will get any revenue from CNT, which runs I-Go, since it's a non-profit, unlike Google or Titan. Unless there's some federal or state grant to cover these costs, this looks like a joint venture with a low ROI, RH.

I still carry my CTA card in my wallet even though I moved out of state.

Considering that working class folks are the ones bearing the brunt of the current price disparity between fare cards and chicago cards, I have no problem at all with equalizing their fares with middle class folks.

"But I disagree. One of the key reasons for me to use it is to protect against losing the card, and to not have to worry about ever filling up the card at a machine. I use the monthly pass and get the cost taken out of my paycheck monthly via the Commuter Benefit. But even if I didn't have that benefit, I would have the CTA take it from my credit card account."

That seems to be an argument for the Chicago Card Plus. Like I said, that card definetely has strong benefits and people will still use it. But not the regular Chicago Card (in which money is added from machines just like the transit card and you cannot transfer it from your credit card account). There is an advantage in that it more durable and one is therefore more comfortable placing more money on it (and like you said, you can protect this money). But that clearly is not enough to convince people to use it. It is not speculation. We have experience to tell us what happens when there is no price incentive. That existed for two or three years and almost nobody got the cards. Once these cards are phased out it will cause a longer commute for bus riders and will add a lot to the CTA's fuel costs.

I'm also not sure why rail users would be subject to higher fares, and to my knowledge the CTA has failed to provide an adequate explanation as such.

The argument can be made that since buses cost more to operate and maintain, are more destructive to the environment, and provide more coverage systemwide than the rail system, it's the bus riders who should be subject to higher fares. To penalize rail riders who choose to utilize a more efficient and less costly means of transport seems counterintuitive.

The fiscal "elasticity" arugment that Huberman is using to justify higher percentage increases for Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus users works both ways.

Doc, the reason trains are more expensive is because transfers are free.

I wouldn't mind the fare increase, and I wouldn't mind the loss of the Chicago Card bonus. But I do mind both. There is no longer an incentive to get a Chicago Card.

It's perfectly fair to ask Chicago Card users to pay the full fare that everyone else pays. But if I'm giving the CTA my money in advance of my using the system (meaning: more than I would need to pay for just a single ride/round trip), then I should be earning some sort of return for that investment. After all, they get the use of my money long before I use the system. That's why tokens cost less than full fare; that's why the Chicago Card cost less than full fare, or gave a similar bonus; and that's why the passes cost less than the amount of full fares they would equal.

If the CTA is still getting the use of my money before I use their service, then I should be getting a return on my investment.

Did someone just argue that there will be extra "wear & tear" on the card vending machines that will result in extra costs?

Really? Are you serious?

You're really reaching there.

There was also a big press conference for a partnership between the CTA & CPS for CPS to use smart cards that was supposed to save CTA $500,000/year. Well, it didn't happen, funny there was no press conference about the deal failing.

With the huge escalation in gas costs, I only knew it would a matter of time before CTA riders would be paying more in transportation costs just like Metra riders (they had a fare increase in Jan 2008) and drivers. So I guess I'm ok with the fare increase.

My biggest aggrevation that persists with the CTA is the complete neglect of the Red line north of Addison, both tracks and stations. Nearly every other line is nearly free of long slow zones and getting better. Not the Northern end of Red! Just in the last few weeks there are new 15mph slow zones, especially Southbound. The latest one being between Bryn Mawr and Berwyn. The one between Lawrence and Wilson persists and now it seems to have grown further South now too. Now that the subways are fixed, why can't the CTA attack the bad tracks up North? Some of the Purple line tracks in Evanston and the express tracks in the city are very heavily slow zoned as well. Of course no mention of these areas in Ron's famous slow zone removal plan.

The Chicago Cards are smartcards that use a proprietary technology. DC uses the same brand, but all of the Asian transit agencies use a different type of card.

I'm guessing that CTA wants to reduce the penetration of the cards in order to ease into the implementation of a new type of smartcard--or a new smartcard reader that could use any type of smartcard. San Fran recently did a pilot project for paying fares by phone, NY did one for paying using a bank card. I'm guessing that CTA moves forward with direct payment--tapping your debit card to smartcard reader--in the next couple of years.

By reducing the pricing incentive of the CC, at least this way, people may freak out less when CTA rolls out a new technology.

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"Our Chicago Card customers are more elastic in their ability to absorb fare increases," said CTA President Ron Huberman.
<<<

So much for the arguement that Ron's political experince is a plus for the CTA. You can't talk like that if you expect to get elected to anything.

It's also not nice that he's turned this into some sort of class battle based on Zip Codes. Should a governmental agency be making redlining decisions in 2008? I don't think so.

So now we see that not only doesn't he have expreince in transit, he has no common sense, either.

"Considering that working class folks are the ones bearing the brunt of the current price disparity between fare cards and chicago cards, I have no problem at all with equalizing their fares with middle class folks."

DBT,

You do understand that there is no minimum income requirement for someone to get a Chicago Card, right?

I thought the Chicago Card was tied to a credit card. There's no minimum income requirement for credit cards?

Ah. Although it wasn't as easy to find as I'd hoped, it's the Plus card that's tied to a credit card. The barriers to owning the non-Plus card are pretty minimal indeed.

I'm sympathetic to Patrick's point about the CTA helping itself to an interest-free loan by requiring a minimum $20 balance on the Chicago Cards. Why the minimum needs to be so high is baffling -- who gets onto a bus and pays 10 fares at once? Why not just recharge when the balance hits $0? Or if a cushion is needed, how about $4 (or maybe $4.50, under the proposed fares)?

That said, we're talking about losing the use of $20 here. Best case scenario, if you had an extra $20, you might be able to earn about $1 in interest in a year, or maybe avoid $4 in finance charges on some credit card debt. That's hardly a justification for conferring a $.25/ride discount, which could easily add up to over $100 per year.

Re: the 2-day pass disappearing - I agree it seems like a wierd one to eliminate. If Ron just has a gnawing desire to make fewer options available to people, eliminating the 3-day would appear to be a better choice. When I have visitors coming in to town for the weekend, I recommend they get a 2-day pass, and it's much easier to get them to take the CTA for the rest of the weekend. If they have to deal with estimating how much pay-per-ride fare to put on a card and having to figure out how to add fare later if they run out, they'll just skip the CTA altogether. I'm not saying it's rational, but public transit is unfamiliar to a lot of visitors, and there's only so much uncertainty and figuring-it-out that they're going to deal with.

I suppose this means my CTA Link Up card will go up too? right now it costs $36 a month so i can use it in rush hour to take the CTA from the Metra to work. Does anyone know if this will go up?

I also have an easy solution to the filth on the CTA - STOP THROWING YOUR TRASH ONTO THE FLOOR and sunflower seed shells onto the flooor too..and stop eating food on the CTA!!

just thought i would throw this in there...

first of all, it was pointed out at the meeting yesterday that from 1995-98, 30 day passes cost $88. then they were reduced to $75 in '99 and have stayed that way since then. also, accounting for inflation, the $90 today would be less than the $88 in 1998.

also, i'm sure there will be heavy discussion from the board with this ... especially with the Guv's handpicked new board member thrown into the mix. she likes to spew the same crap that Blago does, and Huberman got slightly snarky with her. i.e. she sort of said "why can't we wait for a fare increase? the legislation was created so there wouldn't be any. (ever, i guess she assumed)" and he retaliated with "i said into the cameras that there wouldn't be one in '08, i never said anything about '09." then she said something about how "well you weren't expecting the real estate xfer tax to be so low, maybe things will get better by next year, why can't a fare increase wait? *with which she gave a cute little look into the cameras in the back of the room (i guess she was trained well)*" and he shot back with "well we weren't anticipating the free rides either." and she said "well, it was in the legislation." and he said something about the free rides not being there until the last minute, and the same time i muttered under my breath how they weren't there to begin with, and the guy sitting next to me looked at me like i was crazy. not word for word, but you get the idea.

but, you know, everybody just continue your complaining on here. or, hey, here's an idea, go to the public hearing about the budget on the 29th and actually complain at CTA HQ! you can give board members/Ron the evil eye in person!

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stillwaiting said:
Re: the 2-day pass disappearing - I agree it seems like a wierd one to eliminate. If Ron just has a gnawing desire to make fewer options available to people, eliminating the 3-day would appear to be a better choice.
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I'm betting you weren't at the board meeting like Sarah was or you would have heard Ron explain that the 2-day and 5 day visitor passes together represent less than 1% of
passes sold, and their elimination will result in a cost savings to the CTA - all the other VP have higher usage. (Same info in the budget proposal under the fare section.) So they made a choice to get rid of the product(s) that were not in demand. Actually one of the few things I think he can defend.

adam

Was there any discussion at all at the board meeting about the fact that the discontinuance of the Chicago Card price incentives will dramatically reduce its use and eventually cause its elimanation? Or are the board members as clueless as Huberman? Did anybody mention the costs to the CTA of administering the card vs. the transit card and how that affects its budget in the long-run. Did anybody even seem to understand that Huberman's equalization of these fares will have an enormous impact on the agency's service and cost pressures? There doesn't seem to be anything in the media coverage that indicates that any board members even asked about it. Perhaps someone who went to the meeting can let us know.

In addition to everything I have stated about the enormous positive effects the Chicago Card has on bus speed and reliability and fuel costs, it also should be pointed out that there are other major benefits to the CTA. The lower price of rides on the card vs. the transit card helps the CTA keep its more elastic customers (Huberman's misunderstanding of the word aside, that means the customers who are most likely to consider using another form of transporation instead). I assume the reason why Kruesi made it somewhat difficult to get is because of this benefit. It works just like a discount card at any number of retailers, such as Jewel's preffered card or those from such places as CVS, Dominick's or Borders. Those people who are most likely to crave a discount are the people most likely to go a little out of their way to get something that will provide them with lower prices. These are the people, of course, who are generally most likely to consider not purchasing the particular product or service, in this case a CTA ride. This is why Jewel does not pass their preferred card out to everyone who walks into the store. The people who don't wish to take time out of their lives to get the preferred card usually do not care very much about paying higher prices or else they would have done so. This allows the store to achieve a more efficient level of pricing. They charge higher prices to those who are more willing to pay them and lower prices to those whose business they are most in danger of losing. The Chicago Card works the exact same way. And it is extreamly unfornutate that Huberman has decided to throw away this great pricing efficiancy. Does he even realize that it was intended that way? Did he even talk to anybody involved in these decisions from the previoius leadership?

Instead Huberman has decided to engage in class warfare. This is evident with his bizarre "elasticity" argument that is incorrect both in his assumptions about Chicago Card users and in his understanding of the very concept of elasticity. He seems to clearly be positioning himself as a "populist" candadate in his inevitable run for mayor once Daley is gone (in case anyone hasn't figured out, Huberman wants to inherit Daley's throne). He uses the term "Chicago Card users" as if it was a constant like "male users with blond hair" or "high school students" when, of course, the number of these people is determined by the CTA's pricing stratagy. In this article ( http://www.wbbm780.com/Board-Wants-Delay-On-Fair-Hike/3116646 ), unbelievably, he actually states that he doesn't think that the change will affect the card's popularity. What complete ignorance. We don't even have to speculate about that. We already know what happens when there is no pricing incentive. It was that way for two years or so and almost nobody used the card. This is not something that is really debatable. The card will be phased out if this pricing plan goes through. Nobody will get new cards when there old ones expire and new users to the system will certainly not get them. That's just the way it is. There is no doubt about that. Yet Huberman states the opposite. And he also says that there is no need for the 10% bonus because its purpose was to attract people to the card and the article paraphrases him as stating "that goal has been accomplished". Absolutely unbelievable. He thinks that as long as a certain percentage of CTA users have the cards that it will always be this percentage. That shows a lack of understanding of basic business and organizational sense. It sort of reminds me of a few years ago President Bush counting down the numbers of insurgant leaders who had been killed or captured and somehow believing that this was a constant list with nothing new being created. I don't, by the way, have a problem with elimanating the 10% bonus if the actual price of rides were still lower on a Chicago Card. But there needs to be some incentive for the card to be used or else the CTA will be back to the more inefficiant transit cards for most of the riders.

MK, no, not much was mentioned about the specific Chicago Card issue. probably the best way you would get an answer about it is if you go to the public hearing regarding the budget. if you really feel this passionately about it, then you should go and make a comment about it. i guess i'm just dumb, because i don't see the big deal with the CC thing. but then again, that's because i use the CC+ for unlimited rides so the bonus doesn't mean crap to me.

also, if someone could let me know if this is true, that would be great. someone posting on a different board said that when the CTA started using the transit cards as opposed to cash/tokens, that there was some sort of incentive for buying them back then. is this true? if so, then perhaps this is just the same sort of thing... the bonus was meant to get people to switch over to the new technology? I don't know.

When I am talking about the price incentives, I am not talking about the bonus. I am talking about the fact that the price of rides with the Chicago Card under Huberman's plan will no longer be lower that that of the transit card. I don't think the 10% bonus is a major issue. At this point, I think many riders forget about that anyway. To answer your question, yes there did used to be a 10% bonus for the transit card. As I mentioned on the thread one down, around a year or two after the Chicago Card was introduced (and virtually nobody used them) this bonus was removed and so that the only place to get it would be the Chicago Card. There was then a slight increase in the people who got them. It went from almost nobody to a fair amount of riders but still a very small percentage. This was still not significant enough to create the real efficiencies that the CTA was hoping from the lower cost of processing the card. So in 2006(or 2005 or whenever the last so-called fare increase was imposed), the price was made 25 cents higher for rail rides on the transit card. Only then did the percentage of users using the Chicago Card approach anything major. I really wonder if Huberman even is aware of this history. His actions don't indicate that. The 10% bonus probably should have actually been elimanated in 2006 since its purpose was no longer neccessary as a result of the change in price structure. So I don't have a problem if they elimanate it now were they to decide to change their minds about equalizing the fares. But the Chicago Card fare must be lower than the transit card if the CTA is going to operate efficiantly. We know pretty clearly that the transit card is not as efficiant to process and we know that the people will not use the Chicago Card without the price incentives. There is no doubt about this. We have the experience to prove it.

The last numbers I saw showed that around one-fourth as many people use the Chicago Card Plus as the regular Chicago Card. So while people will still use the plus card it won't be nearly enough to preserve any of the service speed and cost efficiancies we are seeing today.

I should also mention that I really am speechless at the fact that, according to sarah, the CTA board members did not even ask about anything related to this. This is an action that will have enormous effects on the costs and service reliablity of the agency. It will elimanate the huge benefits to a very speedy boarding process on buses. In a few years, each bus stop will generally take three times as long just like it was before. No longer will people be taking the fraction of a second to touch their Chicago Cards to the reader and instead there will be the 4 or 5 seconds for each passenger to insert and remove their card(with the exception of a few Chicago Card Plus users). If the board isn't concerned about this they should have at least asked how much additional money would be spent on fuel from these longer boarding times. I would guess it is a pretty significant amount of money. And how about the increased cost of printing the transit cards? I guess none of this was even asked. The CTA board needs to do its job.

By the way, Sarah, sometimes people have places they need to be during the board meetings. So not going to a meeting is not neccessarally evidence that one doesn't wish to engage with the CTA leadership directly. I do think it is a good bet that Huberman, Carole Brown, and others read this blog. I'll also post in Carole's blog within a few days and will probably link to this thread. And maybe I will e-mail some other board members. So I will make sure that those making the decisions hear my opinions about this (even though, quite frankly, they really are not opinions but just undisputable statements).

MK, I wasn't trying to sound like some sort of an elitist because I went to the meeting and you didn't. I just happened to have the day off anyway; I don't always go. What I am saying is there is a public hearing on the 29th, and it's been listed on their web site for MONTHS, so, you know, if someone's really concerned about what's going to happen next year, they have had plenty of time to make arrangements to be there at 6 pm on the 29th.

And I still don't see what the big deal with the Chicago Card is, sorry! I guess I'm just dense. :) I thought a big part of it was that if you lose a transit card with $40 bucks on the balance, you're out $40 bucks, but if you lose your CC with $40 bucks on it, you can get a replacement and still have your cash. Plus it's just plain easier to use. I just don't see what the problem with everyone paying the same fares is either. But if everyone will do what you think they're going to do and toss their CCs, maybe the CTA will consider reinstating the privileges for having the CC. we don't know.

I really don't know why we need different-colored multi-day passes. Since the information about how long the passes are good for is stored on the magnetic stripe, why not have a vending machine that will sell whatever type of pass someone wants? The machine could simply write to the magnetic stripe at the time of purchase.

When I was in St. Louis a few weeks ago, the machines there sell passes that are good for however long you need. You can actually type in a date for how long you will need the pass and it will give you a cost and allow you to pay with cash or plastic. Of course, they don't use turnstiles for the train and the pass is just printed, but it can't possibly be that much more difficult to write to a magstripe.

MK, I also lol'd upon reading the word "elastic"... clearly someone told him to use the word without explaining what it meant.

But I do disagree with you on one point: I don't think the fact that people didn't jump into the CC before discount means they'll jump ship now. You're right that people needed an incentive to use the CC in the first place, because of simple inertia, and because people didn't care about the convenience and loss protection benefits (not having experienced them). But for people with the CC now, inertia works in the other direction: it's easier to stick with the card than to dump it, especially the CCP where riders have to take explicit action to stop the auto-debit. Also, I think the CC is in some ways an "experience good", at least for the convenience benefit--you don't know how much you'll value the convenience until you try it for a while.

So I'm guessing that now that people have used the CC, most people will value the benefits, and even if not, inertia will keep a lot of them using it anyway.

Now I could be wrong, of course--it will depend on how people value the benefits (status quo, convenience, loss protection) against the costs (privacy, money "tied up"). But my broader point is that a world with no more CC discounts is not the same as the world before people started using CCs in the first place.

I've known about the I-Go/CTA partnership for a few months now and I love it. It's one less card I'll have to carry around. I don't use the cars often and actually have three w/i walking distance of my house, but there's also a lot of businesses that give I-Go members discounts so I have taken to carrying my I-Go card even when I'm not getting a car.

And for the record, not everyone with a CCP has it tied to a credit card. I don't. I'm like Kevin, the money comes out of my paycheck for the 30 day pass. I figure the CTA doesn't really need a credit card number from me, since they aren't using it.

In answer to your question, Sarah, there was a 10% bonus on every $10 for the transit card when it was first introduced in the late 90's. The bonus was eliminated soon after the introduction of CC/ CCP.

The long-term slow zone plan does include the north Red Line and Purple Line tracks. The only other long-standing set of slowzones is on the Ashland branch of the Green Line, though some are popping up on the Dan Ryan Red Line. What all these areas have in common is that they are pretty far from the city center -- concentrating on areas closer to downtown makes sense because those slow zones affect more people. Doing the Blue Line before other far-out areas also makes sense because those slow zones were particularly notorious and were an embarrassment due to the airport connection.

The use of the word "elastic" by Ron Huberman was appropriate by any reasonable standard. In addition, the underlying message of the statement is both true and fair. Users of the Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus are able to pay their fares in advance and therefore presumably have more disposable income than those who need to pay as they go. Therefore, they are better able to absorb a fare increase.

The previous system essentially subsidized the fares of people who were, on average, more easily able to pay higher fares. Making fares the same across the board eliminates a previously unfair system rather than creating some fresh injustice. The reference to "redlining" in this context is offensive.

One effect of the fare increase is that it will be only a dime cheaper than a metra ticket from Zone A to B. In fact, a 10 ride from places like rogers park, oak park, or hyde park will be cheaper than a ride on the el.

"In addition, the underlying message of the statement is both true and fair. Users of the Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus are able to pay their fares in advance and therefore presumably have more disposable income than those who need to pay as they go. Therefore, they are better able to absorb a fare increase.

The previous system essentially subsidized the fares of people who were, on average, more easily able to pay higher fares. Making fares the same across the board eliminates a previously unfair system rather than creating some fresh injustice. The reference to "redlining" in this context is offensive."

What are you talking about? I don't understand where the confusion comes from. The transit card and the Chicago Card (not the Chicago Card Plus, the Chicago Card) work EXACTLY the same way in terms of loading fares onto the card. You take the card to the machine and swipe or insert it. After which you add however much cash you want (or you can use one of the credit card machines). In both cases, you have to pay somewhat in advance. I think you are confusing the Chicago Card with the Chicago Card Plus (even though the difference between the two has been explained here several times over the past few days). Your arguments make sense (they are incorrect but they do make sense) if you were arguing against higher bus cash fares and if you want them to bring back the cash transfer. But it doesn't make sense when comparing the Chicago Card and the transit card.

Like I stated before, any income differences implied from Huberman's populist comment between people who use the Chicago Card and the transit card is likely because he is including the Chicago Card Plus in that comparison. Also, since the bus fare for the transit card is the same price as the Chicago Card it is likely that it is used by a higher percentage of rail users than bus users. There are many bus users who rarely use the rail system so they don't have an incentive to get a Chicago Card. In Chicago, the rail system serves a lower percentage of lower income neighborhoods than the bus system. So that is a factor and it has nothing to do with any need to have a certain amount of income to prepay fares. Lower income people have no disadvantage with the Chicago Card (except perhaps in a very minor way with the 10% bonus). The argument that they do has been made several times and I think it just comes from confusion over how the thing works. Whenever I press as to how specifically they are at a disadvantage these people never answer. I think if you are going to engage in class warfare you ought to at least get your facts straight first.

"You're right that people needed an incentive to use the CC in the first place, because of simple inertia, and because people didn't care about the convenience and loss protection benefits (not having experienced them). But for people with the CC now, inertia works in the other direction: it's easier to stick with the card than to dump it, especially the CCP where riders have to take explicit action to stop the auto-debit. Also, I think the CC is in some ways an "experience good", at least for the convenience benefit--you don't know how much you'll value the convenience until you try it for a while."

All that assumes that the passengers who ride the CTA are always the exact same people year after year. Of course, that is not the case. There are always a very large amount of people moving into and out of the city. The new residents will not have experienced the benefits to the card. In fact, those who have had the card and never had it lost or damaged (likely the overwhelming majority) would really never have experienced any loss prevention benefits. At least over time, these people likely come to the conclusion that this is not a significant benefit. The only other benefit is that it is faster to pay than the transit card. As I have stated, when combined with all other riders, this benefit is enormous. However, when people make decisions about this they are only looking at the specific benefit of their particular action to themselves. The benefit of their quicker boarding is only a few seconds. Nobody cares about that. And it won't matter whether they experienced the slight benefit. If somebody told you that you are about to spend three seconds longer in line every time you go to Starbucks but that you can avoid this by going to a particular location to get a card or something, would you do that? No.

" But if everyone will do what you think they're going to do and toss their CCs, maybe the CTA will consider reinstating the privileges for having the CC. we don't know."

I never stated that people will dump their cards. Of course they won't. They will continue to use them until they expire. After which, they will not want to take the time to go out of their way to get a new card since they will not be receiving any significant benefits. If you are going to require people to take a certain action to get something, you need to give them a reason to do so. We already know that people will not get the cards if it only for the advantage of the slightly faster boarding times for themselves and loss protection. If people are allowed to keep any remaining balance on their cards when they get a new one (I'm not sure whether that is allowed or not), then maybe there will be slightly more people than I think who will keep using them. But I think most people don't keep all that much on the card especially if they know it will soon expire.

This is like debating whether a fourth Indiana Jones movie would make a lot of money. It might be an interesting intellectual exercise to do that. Some people might say that it has been so long since the third movie that the franchise has long since lost its huge popularity. However, it would really be a silly discussion since the movie has already been released and it made a great deal of money. The same thing is really true with a debate over whether the other benefits to the regular Chicago Card are enough to cause people to use it. We already know the answer. It is no. Those benefits were advertised all over the place for a year or two but virtually nobody switched to the card until rides were made cheaper than the transit card.

Nobody wanted to switch to the card because the CTA was charging $5 for a card that did the same thing as a free card.

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