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Safety on the CTA: Good news on trains, bad news on buses

Safety on the CTA certainly has been in the news lately, with the shooting death of a teenager on a CTA bus Sunday. In that thread, Michael told of his mugging on the Red Line. And I've heard a harrowing story from a pregnant woman who was the victim of an attempted robbery on the Green Line. More on that later.

So I went to look up some CTA crime stats on Everyblock.com. I wanted to compare 2007 year-to-date with 2008 year-to-date, but unfortunately, that site only goes back to July or so of 2007.

But I did compare July, August and September of last year to the same months this year. Here's what I found.

First, the site tracks crime on CTA buses, trains, platforms and garages/other properties. Then you can use the custom filter to check by date. It's a cool tool created by Adrian Holovaty and his crew.

In those summer months of 2007, there were a total of 1,615 crimes in all those locations. In 2008, there were 1,518, for a decrease of about 6% this year. However, this year there was a 25% increase in crimes on CTA buses during those summer months -- 282 in 2007 vs. 352 in 2008. Not good.  But crimes on trains and platforms dropped about 15% -- from 1,144 in 2007 to 970 in 2008.

(Disclaimer: Three months is a short time frame for comparison. But it does cover three summer months, when more people are out and crime may be higher.)

Bottom line: Be careful. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you see crime on the CTA, report it to the police and to the CTA, with a good description of the offender. Help out fellow passengers, without putting yourself in harm's way.

Click on the continuation to read about Anna story about a theft ring working the Green Line.

Today on the Westbound Green Line, at Pulaski, at around 12:45, a male teenager (African-American approximately 16 or 17, 5' 8", 150 lbs, black knit hat) attempted to steal my bag which was on the seat next to me. Luckily my arm was through the straps, and after several minutes of struggling, I was able to prevent the theft.

No one came to my aid. After the event, the suspect was trapped on the train as it proceeded to Laramie. I ran through the train car in vain looking for the call button to alert the driver to not open the doors at the next stop, but could not find one.

The reason I could not find the call button--it was not one individual trying to steal my bag, but two individuals working in a team--one grabbed my bag while the other stood in front of the call button so no one could find it.

Despite numerous pleas to the other riders, no one would help me detain them, and I'm 7 months pregnant, so I wasn't going to try to physically restrain them all by myself. Although some did call 911.

Later I realized that someone could have pulled the emergency brake or passed to the next car to look for a call button there, but I guess no one had their critical thinking caps on (a cynic would say no one cared enough to do such things).

After they got off at Laramie, fellow riders alerted me to the tag team approach, and one even let me know she had seen this exact scenario before.

Later today, in telling friends about the incident, I learned another friend had the same thing happen to her about a year ago, also on the Green Line at about the same point, although she was not as lucky as I, and did in fact have her bag stolen.

So please spread the word to tell women to be on the alert on the Green Line, especially around Pulaski and Laramie as the doors open!


I don't mean this to be rude, but I don't think it's reasonable to EXPECT someone to help you in a situation like this. I am.a 6 foot 3 male, medium build, and I'd probably try and help... And then get stabbed or shot in the process. I wouldn't expect others to do the same for me though. Too dangerous!

I DO think it's reasonable of others to help out - and it seems some did. Anna acknowledges that several did call 9-1-1.

Honestly, it depends on what's happening.

Someone suffers an attempted theft - I call 9-1-1. But, I'm not going to go all vigilante on the perps for an unsuccessful robbery.

Now if they had managed to get her purse, maybe a different story. I'd try harder to impede their escape- maybe.

But if I saw some guys beating on someone - different story. I would probably jump in to stop the attack - as long as I didn't see a weapon. (Admittedly, this might not be a very smart choice, but that's what I'd do.)

Green line is ghetto! I wouldn't recommend any take that line, especially at night. I was robbed at gunpoint by two punk teenagers a couple of years ago near Central. Two people on the train saw it, but said and did nothing.

I knew something like this was bound to happen because I kept hearing about people getting robbed on the green line.

I wouldn't recommend any take that line, especially at night.

i didn't have the luxury of taking a cab back from work at 1 in the morning so i had the take the green line back to the city from work. the only time i've ever been the victim of crime on the cta, actually anywhere in chicago now that i think about it, was on the green line. four teens attempted to rob me and when they didn't get anything they bashed my skull with a chunk of curbstone. they jumped off the train when it got to california where two undercover cops were able to apprehend two of them.

be very f'ing careful on the green line.

"I was robbed at gunpoint by two punk teenagers a couple of years ago near Central. Two people on the train saw it, but said and did nothing."

Well, in all fairness, if you're robbed at GUNPOINT do you really expect someone to jump in and stop it or tell the gun-weilding crooks to knock it off? Hell, I wouldn't expect someone to yell for the conductor, at least while the guys with the gun were still in the vacinity. You've got guys shooting people for brushing against their hands these days. I wouldn't begrudge anyone for not jumping to my aid against a guy with a gun. Now, just a bunch of thugs looking for a fight, maybe...

Hey guys, let's not bash the green line. These are poor people. They only rob because they need to in order to survive.

The high profile acts of violence that occurred on CTA property, such as the murders of Blair Holt and Kiyanna Salters, are shocking. Equally disturbing are the incidents posters have been reporting over the last two days. These crimes never make it to the 10 o' clock news, but they erode confidence in the CTA as a viable alternative to owning a car or taking cabs. I still feel that, factoring in accident injury statistics, I'm safer on a CTA bus or train than I am in the back of a cab or behind the wheel of a personal vehicle; however, I've had a few experiences in the last 6 weeks that, while not life-threatening, make me question my decision to get rid of my car and rely on CTA. During one incident when a male passenger was harrassing me and another female rider, CTA personnel told me that there was nothing they could do. If they can't, who can? That seriously undermines CTA's ability to present itself as an option that those of us lucky enough to be able to chose transit over driving should make. I hope if Huberman's been dropping by the last few days that he's taken time out from enjoying the Flickr feed to see a pattern in these posts and realize there's a serious security problem that needs to be addressed.

If Hubey wants his police pension, he is welcome to earn it by making the CTA his beat. Plenty of work for ol police officer to do on the CTA

The CTA employee (and leaders) mantra... "There's nothing we can do".......

Well, like Martha said, they can always come here and look at the pretty Flickr pictures.


P.S. I got interviewed about the fare increase on camera today...maybe you'll get to see my shout out to Ron and Carole...

A heads-up: The Tribune is reporting that the CTA will be raising fares and doing away with the fare bonus you get when you use a Chicago Card.

Hi all,

Anna, here.

In the spirit of citizen action (I'm very involved in community activism) and getting the word out, I'll be passing out fliers I made tomorrow morning at the Green Line Austin stop during the rush. They detail the crime that happened to me, and include a list of steps folks could have done to help, as well as what to do if something similar happens to you. I'll be emailing it to my list, and hopefully the info will spread.

I know we're all scared of guns and getting shot, but after I had managed to get my bag back, it was patently clear that the primary assailant was just an unarmed teenager, scared to death that he was going to get caught. Now he is empowered with getting away with it.

Trust me, if I wasn't pregnant, I would have wrestled him to the floor and sat on him until the cops could be summoned...

And please--if you are the victim of such a crime, report it, several times to the regular beat cops, to the CTA security office, and to the CPD transit detail. With an extreme lack of communication between these entities, you must place the burden on yourself as citizen to cover all the bases.

Kevin B, what channel? Cause if it's the CTA's cable access program, I'm pretty sure getting cut. :)


I think it's chan 7. If not CLTV. I took my glasses off so I'd look pretty.

My fav quote was that I'd be the first one to lobby Springfield if I felt that I could trust Ron with money and part of the problem was I also thought that the folks in Springfield felt the same way(among their own Springfield dysfunctional problems)..

It was funny, the guy commented afterward that I had sure seemed to be aware of what was going on with the CTA and that I seem well schooled in it.


From the Tribune:

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

Two thoughts: 1) I hope RonH is more elastic in his ability to absorb rider ire. 2) I now have the Spinners song "Rubber Band Man" running through my head.

Huberman raises rates, lays off more employees at the wrost possible time and requests an inordinate amount of money to fun the "Pipe dream"


Hey guys, let's not bash the green line. These are poor people. They only rob because they need to in order to survive.

hey guy, i'm poor too and am only trying not to get robbed in order to survive.


I think he was trying to be sarcastic, at least that's how I took it..


I think that raising revenue by eliminating the bonus for using a Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus is going to backfire because riders may switch to regular transit cards, which greatly increase wear and tear on the machinery that dispenses and reads them thus increasing maintenance costs. RonH likes to talk about how incredibly expensive transit cards and collecting cash are for CTA, yet his plan to eliminate the bonus for the CC/CCP will take away a major incentive for using them. Not to mention the fact that CTA will piss off a lot of people and turn riders off to any of the brave new fare media he touted last spring.

Hi Regular GL rider here. There's a purse snatching ring that works the green line around Pulaski. Two punks tried to steal my handbag off my lap during the day a couple years ago. I tackled the bag while the guy was tugging on the straps. He finally let go and they both ran off the train. The worst thing? Another (male) rider who scolded me afterwards I should be keeping an eye out for criminals on the Green line!?! WTF?

I tried to call CPD, but it got so frustrating to try to talk to 911 on my cell, that I gave up. I didn't file a report. It probably happens every day.

Dude: Sorry, but I don't buy your argument that poor people are entitled to rob others so they can survive. A lot of people steal as a career choice, because they need to buy the drug of choice, or just because it's easy.

Even with the increase in price, the 30 day pass is still a better deal than the Chicago Card ever was for people who use the CTA everyday.

Still, it does seem a bit ridiculous that the CTA's pass is going to be more expensive than the MTA's. I was in New York over the summer and when we got to Chicago, the trains seemed so slow. They may have problems, too, but their trains are fast and they have pretty good security in the subways.

You know, I'm glad the CTA is reaching out to riders, but there are a lot of ways it could improve inbound communications, too. There are a lot of circumstances where I'm not going to play Batman -- even to the point of calling 911 -- but if I could text message the police or CTA, that's a pretty easy and discreet thing to do, and if a few people do it simultaneously, the urgency comes across all the moreso. There may even be opportunities to take cell phone photos fairly discreetly to make identification easier.

That said, it sounds like it's also time for a couple of plainclothes details to ride the Green Line for a while.

I saw three Senn High students beating the crap out of each other on a NB Red at Thorndale a few weeks ago. People on the train called the cops but did not get involved. I watched from the SB Red, which the operator held so he could join the NB operator on the platform while they waited for the police. The kids didn't care. They were completely oblivious to everyone else on the train and continued, screaming, pushing and punching each other, bystanders and consequences be damned. These are the kids who block the sidewalk, scream obscenities at one another, smoke pot in people's gangways and pretty much go out of their way to display for the world their antisocial behavior. On Halloween they'll be throwing eggs at people from the platform and nearby business rooftops. I'm actually surprised we all don't see more of this in Chicago, where there's virtually no police presence on the CTA. Most of these kids figure out when they're about ten years old that people think they're "scary." They learn that they can pretty much do whatever they want and get away with it.

Sigh .... always, always, always call 911.

(1) It's how police are dispatched. If you've ever gone to a CAPS meeting you'd know the CPD wants you to call 911 for ANY crime in progress.

(2) It goes on the books. The crime, whether the bad guys are caught or not, is recorded and can have a big impact on patrols. Last summer, the CPD noticed a rash of reported burglaries in my neighborhood. So they increased patrols and drove down more alleys checking back porches and they caught the guy. The same can go for roving gangs of bag snatchers and even the shell game grifters.


Thanks Mike for the additional plea to report crimes. But do not just stop at 911. 911 is important, but from my long experience dealing with police issues through CAPS and other community organizations, the lines of communication between one division and another are often problematic or nonexistent.

Here are the numbers for the two other important places to report CTA crimes:

CTA Security Office 312 681-4564
Chicago Police Department Transit Detail 312 745-4457

And Trachea (and others who give up on 911 with bad connections and noise on the el--your frustration is perfectly understandable), please know that you can file a police report later. It does not have to be right after the crime happened. Call 311 if you live in the city and they can transfer you to the appropriate district office, and if it happened on the CTA you can just call the CPD transit number above.

"Dude: Sorry, but I don't buy your argument that poor people are entitled to rob others so they can survive."

For the record, I never said that...

Not true, KS. A 30-day pass is currently more expensive than my daily CTA usage with a Chicago Card Plus. That's taking into account at least two discreet fares (i.e. no transfers) daily and weekend usage. If you have a CCP, you can export your most recent 90-day usage stats to Excel and play with the data to see if a 30-day would be more economical. I loves me some spreadsheets and was worried I was wasting money with the pay-per-use option, so I downloaded my usage and discovered that with the reload bonuses and my current usage level I'm actually making $9 off the CTA every 90 days based on average reloads of $60/month. Great sadness will overcome me after January 1 when the CTA will no longer be buying me a fancy martini every three months. :(

I jiggled the same numbers as Martha and I know were I not getting my CCP through work, I'd be paying more than I need for transit. However, getting through the transit benefit program drops the price (I think I pay $75/month) and it comes out pre-taxes, so I'm saving some there too. I love the convenience factor too.

I'm not even using the Transit Benefit because I don't trust the Shekago Bored of Edujumakashun not to f*ck up my paychecks on a regular basis (which they like to do if you have "exotic" deductions). I'm paying full fare and it's currently still less expensive with pay-per-use with reload bonuses than the cost of a monthly.

See, RonH, we have our own budget performance management systems. And, by the way, RonH, you live in a less affluent zip code than I, yet you earn $198K per year. I live in an allegedly more affluent zip code, but I earn a quarter of that per year with my two masters degrees. Cut a fellow public servant a break, won't cha, Mr. Huberman, sir.


I stand corrected. My post was as response to Johnson at 12:47pm. Sorry about that.

As I've said before, a modest fare increase probably makes sense at this time. However, I'm pretty baffled by the manner in which this is being done. In his proposal, Huberman has completely dismantled any incentives for people to use a Chicago Card. Completely. If this is done and no other action is taken, the Chicago Card will essentually be phased out within a few years (maybe not the Chicago Card Plus, but the Chicago Card). Few people are going to throw away their current cards but when they expire almost everybody is just going to use a transit card. And so will all the new users to the system. When riding buses, it is extreamly noticable how much faster everything moves as a result of passengers using the Chicago Card rather than a transit card. This improves travel times, bus reliability, and saves on gas costs. It also had been mentioned many times by the previous leadership that the Chicago Card saves a significant amount of money on processing costs? Does Huberman think this was wrong? It certainly seems logical to me that the cost of printing out transit cards is not insignificant. I don't understand why Huberman is phasing it out. Does he even realize he is doing so?

And he should probably go to business school and learn the meaning of "elastic". Price elasticity has nothing to do with the ability of people to deal with a cost increase. It involves the effect that the price change has on demand and how this therefore effects the producer's revenue. Whether someone is poor or not is not often a major factor in price elasticity. And in this case, if anything, it has the opposite effect. An affluent person is more likely to have a better alternative to go from place to place than a poor person. Those who are poorer are less likely to afford cars or cab rides. So they are less likely to avoid using the CTA as a result of a fare increase than richer people. And it is pretty bizarre that Huberman is using the factor "Chicago Card users" as if it was something like "male users with blond hair" that is constant and not something that is effected by CTA policy. I just don't understand Huberman's reasoning for a policy that will elimanate the Chicago Card over time. Maybe there is something that makes sense that we have not learned yet. It is, of course, a matter of record that there was virtually no demand for the card before Kruesi imposed a price structure making its fare cheaper on the rail system. And this was when there was a 10% bonus for the card. And now Huberman is actually suggesting going even further back and dismantling that. The Card just won't be used anymore. It's as simple as that.

And I should mention that Kruesi, who clearly made many terrible decisions, deserves a lot of credit for introducing the Chicago Card. It is probably his best decision and maybe one of his few significant good ones. Like I said, it is extreamly noticable how much this improves bus ridership times. And that has effects not only on convenience but on the CTA's fuel costs. I don't understand why Huberman wants to get rid of this. Does he want to try to deny any evidence that good things were implemented by someone other than him?

Excellent post, MK, especially helping our transit president understand that elasticity refers to supply and demand reacting to cost rather than the consumers' ability to bear the cost. Hell, I got a D+ in Microeconomics in undergrad and even I understand elasticity and supply and demand. Don't forget that fuel costs have been declining along with the cost of a barrel of oil as the speculators have lost their credit and, thus, the ability to game the market. Don't think you're going to keep that captive transit audience forever, RonH.

Good point, Martha. And that fuel cost decrease, by the way, should also somehow be reflected in next year's CTA budget. When they started talking about what they referred to as a "modest fare increase" a couple of months ago the cost of fuel was fairly significantally higher than it clearly will be shortly. It would be interesting to see exactly how this has effected the proposed fare increase. Is it lower than it would have been a few weeks ago? I somehow doubt that. If not, why wouldn't it be. And why in the world does the CTA seem to be so obsessed with rounding every fare to the nearest quarter? All of the pay per use fares, with the exception of the bus cash fare, are completely computerized. There is no advantage to having a a fare that is rounded in this manner. It seems likely they could have come up with more logical fares simply by being a little more creative. This is the opposite extreme to Metra in which, with the exception of a small percentage of Metra electic rides, all tickets are purchased from actual humans (as if it was still 1920) and yet they don't even round fares the the nearest dime much less quarter. This adds to the time handling those fares and clearly adds labor costs (but that belongs on another blog which doesn't currently exist as far as I know).

I also hope that the CTA factored in the likely dramatic increase in weekend and evening rail ridership next year as a result of the construction projects, for the most part at least, ending. Most weekends this year a portion of the blue line, the red line, and (in many cases) the brown line were closed, rerouted or single-tracked. And then you have the fact that there still are brown line stations closed and the three-tracking. You also have the fact that the slow zones have almost entirely been removed and the system is therefore more attractive. So as far as I'm concerned, if the CTA posts anything less than a 15 percent increase in weekend rail ridership next year it will be a huge disapointment. I hope that they factored that into their budget. If they were just going by this year's numbers they clearly are proposing a bigger fare increase than needed. Yes, tourism may be down next year because of the economy. But that should be offset, at least to a large extent, by the fact that the people who do visit the city will be more likely to want to use the CTA instead of cabs. I am not at all convinced that the CTA is projecting next year's ridership numbers correctly.

MK, the way you write, it sounds like you're saying the CTA is raising fares to try and screw us and end up with a big surplus -- like it's a for-profit company. Is that really what you think?

If not, what is the point? The CTA has to make its projections and do a budget to those projections. No offense, but I think they have more experience at doing projections than you do.

"MK, the way you write, it sounds like you're saying the CTA is raising fares to try and screw us and end up with a big surplus -- like it's a for-profit company. Is that really what you think?"

Of course not. I am saying that the CTA may be unintentionally underestimating the extent to which the many constuction projects this year have effected its ridersip. I guess one strong piece of evidence for this is Huberman's apparent lack of understanding of the meaning of the word "elastic". If he doesn't know what it means then there is nothing to indicate he or his staff even know the basics as to how many riders these construction projects turned away from using the system. If they don't know this then they probably would not be able to project next year's ridership numbers accurately. The weekends and evenings that these reroutes occur are exactly when the most elastic customers ride the system. These are tourists and occasional riders. Many just rode buses instead but there clearly were a lot of others who instead took cabs or drove to their destination. And I have no reason to believe that the CTA has done any reasonable analysis of this, which it would have to do if it is going to predict next year's ridership. After all, the Chicago Card issue shows they don't even seem to understand the basic concept of elasticity. Of course, I could be wrong and they may be making good projections. But the onus should be on them to provide evidence for this rather than me (or others) providing evidence they aren't.

They may have more experience than me at making projections. But I think it is pretty clear that just because an organization has some experience doesn't mean that nobody should question them. They also had more experience than me at analyzing the potential costs of construction projects when they first proposed the block 37 superstation. Yet at the time I thought it wasn't a good idea. I was right. Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers had more experience than 98% of the population at analyzing real estate transactions and deciding whether it made sense to sell what were essentually insurance policies on these transaction (credit default swaps). Yet they made spectacularly wrong decisions. If someone (perhaps a shareholder) a few years ago had questioned whether these were really good ideas do you think it would have made sense to say "they have to make their decisions and they have more experience than you"? I don't think so.

The CTA can't be blamed for having to increase fares in some fashion; that's a function of rising costs and the failures of policymakers to provide adequate increases in funding.

But the CTA can be blamed for raising fares in the most bone-headed manner possible.

The unlimited passes (the ones that aren't being eliminated entirely) are going up almost twice as much as the base fare. WTF?

Why would the CTA send a giant "F*CK YOU" to the people who use it the most?

Dear Huberman: F*CK YOU BACK.

Excellent point, Kevin. MK's heart is in the right place in looking out for all of our wallets, and he brings up very good points.

But, like you said, the fact remains that the CTA has a budget hole. When that happens, public transit agencies can: raise taxes, raise fares, fire people, reduce service, or some combination of all of the above. Since Huberman's been president, he's gotten the legislature to raise taxes and has fired people (btw, I'm not giving him all the credit, it's just a figure of speech), and the CTA's still in the red. And there are no profits to dig into. So, since no one wants service cuts - not even the CTA, since that implies layoffs, the only option remaining is a fare hike.

Now, we can toss around the blame for the budget hole, but to what end? The CTA can't sue Blagojevich to get the money it needs to run free rides for seniors in the black. Neither can it force the legislature to raise taxes again. Likewise, we can argue over what kinds of fares should go up, and by how much and what affects who more, but at the end of the day, anyone who gets on a bus or a train is going to pay a little more.

The fact of the matter is, if we want buses and trains to run all over town all day, everyone's going to have to pay for it, and if taxes and fares are too low, as they have been for most of the last five or six decades, we're gonna have shitty service, dirty trains, slow zones, and stairwells that smell like pee. Which we do. And no amount of corruption purging (or upper management salary cuts) is gonna come up with the kind of money needed to fix everything that's broken. But who has all the answers? Not me, that's for sure - I wouldn't know where to start.

That being said: everyone be careful out there!


Do you think that you are arguing with anything I said? I specifically stated that I think a fare increase makes sense at this time. I am not arguing with the fare increase. I am arguing with the fact that they are elimanating any incentives for people to use a Chicago Card (which I think in the end will cause inefficiencies and cost increases for the agency). I am also questioning how they came to the exact increase they did. But I never disputed the need for an increase. I am for one. I stated so specifically

No, MK, I wasn't arguing with you directly. I was going to, but then I realized I wasn't really disagreeing with you, so I made some general observations, instead :)

However, I can't agree with you in this Chicago Card issue. There are incentives to using it that aren't going to go away, like quicker boarding, not having to carry cash to ride the bus/train, not worrying about how much money's on your card or having to refill it at a vending machine, getting a replacement card without forfeiting your balance if you lose the card, etc. So, while yes, I agree that it would be awful if people stopped using the electronic cards, I don't think they will in the catastophic numbers you're predicting. Or even in large numbers, period.

People just need to stop hurting other people.


One of the problems with the Chicago Card is that one of the main "discounts" it provides is kind of randomly distributed: much of the time it doesn't work and people end up not paying. If you ride the buses regularly, you see it every day: someone touches their card, the thing comes up invalid, the driver doesn't notice. Or maybe the driver notices and asks the person to re-touch, and if it continues to fail another once or twice, the person gets waived through.

It's not that malfunctions never happen with the magnetic media, but they are clearly much rarer. So the Chicago Card users, as a group, are getting two discounts, one of which is completely arbitrary and hapazardly doled out.

The CTA simply made a mistake in introducing a second fare medium (third, if you count cash) that, apparently, is incapable of completely replacing the old one. Some of the savings of the CC system comes from not having to churn out as many disposable magnetic fare cards; but the CTA could have accomplished some of that goal with a much lower investment if it had simply pushed more people towards 30-day passes, made 30-day passes "rechargeable" (as NYC Transit has started to do), and/or imposed a fee for purchasing a new pay-per-ride card (thus giving people more of an incentive to re-fill their existing cards rather than just throwing them out and buying a new one).

Instead, we have this crazy-quilt system in which the CTA has been foregoing scads of fare revenue through authorized and unauthorized discounts for CC usage. What a waste.

"No, MK, I wasn't arguing with you directly. I was going to, but then I realized I wasn't really disagreeing with you, so I made some general observations, instead :)"

Ah. Next time that happens you might want to remove the parts of the post that are outdated as a result of your change of realization. :)

The benefits you mention were all advertised at the time the Chicago Card was first introduced. Virtually nobody got them. It would have been a complete failure if nothing else was done. Then they introduced the 10% bonus (or more accurately, took away the 10% bonus that had also existed for transit cards) and there was a fairly slight increase in people using the card. But it was still a very small minority of all passengers compared with other payment methods. Only after they assigned a higher rail fare for transit cards was there a significant amount of people who switched over. So I would say it really is not debatable that removing all the price benefits will eventually cause the Chicago Card to be phased out. We know from experience that everything you cited is not enough to encourage even a moderate amount of people to use it to pay for rides.

The Chicago Card Plus has advantages. It will still exist. But the regular Chicago Card eventually will not if this fare plan goes through. I should point out, by the way, that Huberman's study of "affluence" obviously included Chicago Card Plus users. Of course they are going to have higher incomes. If the study only looked at the regular Chicago Card I doubt there would be very much difference in income levels. Not that it matters anyway. For the reasons I stated earlier, affluent people are more elastic customers and thus it is more likely that the CTA might lose some of their business based on price.


You say "A 30-day pass is currently more expensive than my daily CTA usage with a Chicago Card Plus. That's taking into account at least two discreet fares (i.e. no transfers) daily and weekend usage."

I'm not sure how you figure that. If you figure that each ride is $1.75 then subtract the 10%, it's $1.58. If you ride the CTA twice per day, that's 60 rides in a 30 day period. Multiply 60 by 1.58 and you get $94.80 per month on the Chicago Card (that's with the 10% bonus already subtracted). Am I missing something? Maybe there's something I don't know about how they do the fares, but I thought that was correct.

I don't doubt that many people do not ride the CTA twice per day, and for those people the Chicago Card might make more sense. But, I was talking about people who use it 7 days a week.

Well, MK, I'll disagree with you once more and say that ALL things are debatable, and your assertion that this is not helps explain why you're always arguing with someone on this blog. But I love ya :D

You bring up a great point about the CC Plus - it's introduction made the regular Chicago Card obsolete, since it can do everything the regular card can do, plus (haha) you get the option of purchasing 30 day passes. So yeah, I don't understand why there are still two cards, when one can do the job of both - they should work towards combining the media.

But I still don't think people will stop using the cards, not now that so many do and know how convenient it is. Particularly for people who only take buses (two-thirds of all CTA users) and would have to go out of their way to find a fare card vending machine, or else would have to have exact change on their person twice a day or more.

But hey, this is just a proposal, and it's also political. They probably have overstated their need for next year. The bigger the fare hike, the more likely that there'll be a public outcry that'll get Springfield to help - like partially or fully fund the free rides program, and then they can make a smaller fare hike, keep the 10% bonus or whatever. But if no public money materializes (and I think Huberman knows it's a long shot), then by overestimating their need they'll make sure that they don't raise fares and STILL have a budget gap, which would be disastrous. Grrr, politics.

"You bring up a great point about the CC Plus - it's introduction made the regular Chicago Card obsolete, since it can do everything the regular card can do, plus (haha) you get the option of purchasing 30 day passes. So yeah, I don't understand why there are still two cards, when one can do the job of both - they should work towards combining the media."

As far as I know, Chicago Card Plus users cannot add value at vending machines. For many people, this is more convenient. And unless I am mistaken there is no way to pay with cash using a Chicago Card Plus.

There is, of course, something in which probably 97% of the people in the state would agree with and would cause the fare increase to be lower. There is absolutely no excuse for that not occuring. Everybody needs to talk to their state legislators and tell them to repeal the senior free ride program. The voters need to explain to them that there will be consequences for not doing this. As I've said before, they are just as much to blame as Blagojevich. They could have easilly overrode his change by a simple three-fifths majority and the rest of that transit bill would have gone into effect. But they didn't have the courage to do that because they wanted to impress their senior constituants. Of course, I doubt that most seniors are actually impressed by something this patronizing. I think even almost all of the seniors who benefit know at least deep down that they don't need this and almost none will get angry if their elected representatives do the right thing. I suggested that the CTA should have stated how much need to raise the fare with this benefit and how much without it. That would have reminded people that this is partilly responsible put more pressure on the legislature to do something.

I'm curious. Is an administrative fee charged to those applying for free passes? If not, does the law authorizing those free passes prevent administrative fees?

I'm not saying those fees should be in the hundreds of dollars, mind you. But if there are, for the sake of argument, 200,000 users of free passes, and each of them pays ten bucks -- or ten bucks more -- suddenly Ron's police pension is covered. Or, you know, something useful.

I accepted your number-crunching challenge, KS and found something interesting. I ran my usage for September, 2008 and realized I actually gave the CTA $4 extra over the cost of a monthly, which is actually $10 including the reload bonuses. Oh well, apparently they need it. :P Looking at my usage for September, it's unusually high. There are lots of multiple discreet fares on certain days, especially weekends. When I ran the numbers I referenced in my earlier post, it was for three months (Jan, Feb, Mar) and my average monthly usage was nowhere near as high as it was for September. Obviously I don't run around the city as much when it's cold and snowy out. My fluctuating monthly usage, plus the fact that I don't work during the summer and don't use transit as much make a monthly impractical for me when averaged out over a calendar year.

"what is the point? The CTA has to make its projections and do a budget to those projections. No offense, but I think they have more experience at doing projections than you do."

Sorry to get slightly off-topic, but I have to mention that I thought of your comment this afternoon on Michigan Avenue when I noticed an ad on a bus. The ad was between the windows and the very top of the bus. It was the first time I noticed an ad in this spot. It stated "Chicago's shoe store. Values starting at $9.99." I then looked at the ad again to see if maybe I missed something. No, I didn't. The ad stated "Chicago's shoe store. Values starting at $9.99.". That sounds like a good price for shoes. I don't generally buy shoes that are that cheap but perhaps it would be worth taking a look. Of course, there is one problem. I don't know what shoe store this is. I saw this ad but it doesn't mention what they are advertising. I think it is probably a good bet that they had a larger advertisement that states the name of the place below the windows in the normal place for these billboards. I would guess that they hoped to get people's attention with the top ad and then encourage people to move their eyes farther down to the regular ad. The problem, of course, is that the ad was on the left side of the bus. The bus is in the right lane of a very busy street. In the left lane are cars which block the view of this bottom ad. And there always are cars in the left lane. So neither I or anybody else has any way to see that.

When I saw this I immedietely thought of your post because I think it is safe to assume that the people responsible for this have more experience than me in marketing and advertising. Those who made the decisions about the ad probably have master degrees in these disciplines. And I am sure they have created and placed many advertisements before. Yet they did something this utterly stupid. So the fact that people have experience doing certain things does not mean that they do them well. We also currently see that in the case of Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and many other financial institutions. It is not remotely uncommon for laypersons who are observing these things to come to better conclusions about the decisions they are making.

I hate riding the Green Line! I currently live two blocks north of the Halsted/63rd stop, and the only occasions when I will ride it are before 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, just to go to Harold Washington Library since the trackwork on Lake and Wabash is going on on weekends. Otherwise, I don't, and I won't, ride it. And when I do ride it, I look over my shoulder every minute, and respond to every single sound-verbal included-that I hear. I literally hate the Green Line, and the Red Line as well. And because I attend Triton College in the Western Suburbs, I take the Halsted bus to the Orange Line on my way to school. Honestly, I feel much, much, much safer on the Orange Line than the Red Line, and I absolutely go out of my way in order to take the Orange Line when it comes to my safety.

Ha ha, I've been in a small peaceful and beautiful town in the northwest for the past 3 months and have to go home next week to take care of some business. I can't tell you how much I look forward to riding the trains again - NOT! I've been lucky on them so far. I always dress like a bum and wear a deranged grin on my face. That seems to help.

Thanks for the heads up.

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