Catching up: The case against "continuous riders"
In the last couple of weeks a couple of big CTA stories broke that I didn't get a chance to cover or comment on. This is my attempt to do so.
On Nov. 22, Mike Doyle of Chicago Carless fame wrote a well-researched piece about the CTA's newest efforts to crack down on what it calls "continous riders" -- passengers who ride to the end of a rail terminal and board another train going in the opposite direction. Often folks who do this are homeless.
Doyle is angry that the CTA should now start aggressively enforcing this rule, saying it's aimed squarely at the homeless: "It’s pretty clear who these new “continuous riding” signs are aimed at. I can’t imagine a reasonable Chicagoan believing that homeless people are not the obvious and only target here."
But Doyle didn't just angrily rail against this policy. He reached out to the CTA with a series of well-thought-out questions to try and determine what was behind this new crackdown. The CTA had their typical PR spin that it wasn't to crack down on homeless, but "to remind CTA customers of the policy which prohibits customers from continuously riding the same line without payment of another fare, and as an aid to law enforcement in dealing with violators of this rule.”
Now, I like Mike Doyle. He writes a great blog. I met him at the first Coffee with Ron. And I truly appreciate his passion for this topic. But I do disagree with him here. The CTA has always announced as the Red Line pulls into Howard that Howard is the last stop and all passengers must leave the train. And as reported here, the CTA also has worked with Thresholds to get services to the homeless.
The CTA is having enough funding problems that it shouldn't allow anyone to ride continuously for free. Then there's the sanitary problems presented when "continuous riders" have to "go" and stink up the rail car. Plus, I think the homeless are not the CTA's problem.
I do think the CTA should continue to work with social service agencies, and refer "continuous riders" when at all possible. Perhaps they could arrange an "intervention" of sorts with an agency like Thresholds. Target a night when the CTA enforces the rule but with Thresholds by their side to take the homeless to shelters if they wish.
(Photo by Mike Doyle)