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Board approves fare hikes, with reduced increase on passes

The CTA board thought about it for an extra day and decided Thursday to raise fares on passes by 15% instead of 20%, but went along with Ron Huberman's suggested fare hikes on individual bus and rail rides. And as expected, there will be no service cuts.

For those with a Chicago Card or Plus, the individual bus fare goes up 25 cents to $2, and the rail fare increases 50 cents to $2.25. The 10% bonus for a $20 fill up on the card disappears.

Those paying with a Transit Card will see a similar 25-cent increase on buses, but just a quarter fare hike on trains because they already pay $2. The cash fare on buses goes to $2.25 from $2.

As I noted in my fare-hike analysis last month, the Chicago Card user paying per ride will see a 30% drop in purchasing power -- he'll now get 8.9 rides per $20 come Jan. 1, as opposed to the 12.6 rides he gets now. The Transit Card user sees just an 11% drop in ride purchasing power.

Passes go up 15%, not 20%. The board apparently wants to sell more passes, because it rejected the 20% increase recommended by Huberman and raised the price by about 15% instead. So a monthly pass will now cost $86, not $90 -- an $11 hike over the current $75 price. From the press release:

"Under the revised budget, a 1-Day pass would increase from $5 to $5.75; a 3-Day pass would increase from $12 to $14; a 7-Day pass would go from $20 to $23; and a 30-Day pass would increase from $75 to $86. The current 2-Day and 5-Day passes will be eliminated. University Pass (U-Pass) fares, which are currently $0.70 per day, will increase by 15 percent for the Fall 2009 term."

If you have a Chicago Card/Plus and go to work at least 20 days a month, you are better off buying a monthly pass. It will cost you $90 to pay individual fares 20 days a month, or $4 more than with a monthly pass -- and that's without a transfer. If you transfer, you'll fork over another $10 -- and that's $10 you wouldn't pay with a monthly pass.

If you're enrolled in the CTA's Transit Benefit Fare Program at your work place, and you're in the 25% tax bracket, the $86 monthly pass will actually cost you $55 in after-tax dollars.

Note to MK: So really, why would riders not want to buy the monthly pass with their Chicago Card/Plus? It's cheaper than using the Transit Card for each ride, and your value is protected against loss.


I'm still a bit annoyed about the loss of the 2-day pass. I might just stock up on them sometime next week.

If the CTA wants more people to use the Chicago Cards, this is a funny way to encourage them to do so. Argh.

Do most people who use the smart cards already use them as monthly passes? I don't, and I don't care for the higher train fare hike for pay-per-ride card users.

Why do they need more money for the trains than the buses? Is this because of infrastructure costs?

I use the CC+ for my 30 day and it requires absolutely NO THINKING except for actually paying my credit card bill. i don't have to take it out of my wallet, i don't have to think about how many rides i take... it's sort of fantastic.

thus, it's hard for me to see why people DON'T use it for 30 day passes. when i used the transit card version i was constantly worried that i was going to lose it, because i constantly lose things. :D

maybe if you do the math you will realize that it will be cheaper for you to use the 30 day?

I don't use my card enough to warrant getting the monthly pass at this time. When I go back to working full-time, though, I will, and I'll make the switch. In the meantime, I won't appreciate the reduced spending power of the card.

The increases mostly seem reasonable except the larger hike on the trains. Any explanation why from anyone?

The monthly pass price wasn't raised last time there was a fare hike, so it was due.

Also, does anyone know why the "monthly" pass is actually just a 30 day pass? Technically, if you used it every day, you'd be 5 days short of a year which I always though was odd.

It's too bad a fare increase was needed at all, but keeping the pass increases generally in line with the base fare increase makes sense. It's in the CTA's and the public's long-term interest to encourage people to use the CTA more and clog the roads (and air we breathe) less.

Unlimited passes serve that goal; those who use the CTA primarily for commuting are more likely to also sometimes use it for non-commuting purposes if the marginal cost of another ride is zero.

As for Chicago Cards, I wish they'd just get rid of them altogether. They slow down boarding on buses (compared to the regular magnetic strip media, at least) since they frequently don't work on the first touch. The implementation in most buses is awful, too, with the touch pad not giving the passenger any obvious indication whether the touch succeeded or failed, and the touch pad being located too far inside the bus. These design flaws lead to countless instances of operators having to yell into the bus to get someone to come back to "re-touch," which in turn sparks little arguments now and then. As someone who kind of wants the buses to move faster and spend less time at bus stops, I'd prefer that fewer people use Chicago card, not more.

One reason to prefer transit cards over chicago cards is the reason I delayed a long time in getting a CC myself -- I really, really dislike the idea of some databank somewhere having a complete history of my travel habits. (I was miffed about the transit cards replacing tokens for the same reason, though at least transit cards aren't personally identifiable.) I don't even care if all they know is "she goes to work every day," I just don't like knowing I can be tracked and analyzed.

That said, I eventually gave in for convenience's (and money's) sake, which is sad because that's how privacy gets taken away... so I guess I'm a part of the problem. :)

Please explain how to use the regular Chicago card to buy a 30-day pass. And please clarify if it's 30 days exactly from whenever you buy it, or the calendar month.

CC Writer: Only the Chicago Card Plus can be used as a 30-day pass. You register it with the CTA, tie it to your credit card (or your employer if it participates in the Transit Benefit Fare Program), and then select the 30-day pass option.

The clock on the 30 day pass starts the first time you use it.

C C Writer, you have to have a Chicago Card Plus, not a regular Chicago Card, in order to use a smart card as a monthly pass.

The monthly pass reloads every 27 days, regardless of the date. It keeps on reloading every 27 days, unless you cancel the card or change to the pay-per-use option. For more info: http://www.chicago-card.com/ccplus/farechoices.aspx

Heron, just a point of clarification -- the Chicago Card Plus does not reload every 27 days. It reloads on the 27th day of the 30-day cycle.


I have a CC, but have refrained from using the automatic 30-day monthly pass option: I don't like the automatic deductions, and I want to control when I stop and start each cycle. (For example, if I am going out of town for a bit, I usually delay starting a 30-day cycle until I return.) So instead, I have started to use the disposable transit card.

But I have a question: can I go ahead and stock up on the $75 pass now, before the hike (as long as I use them before they expire in 2010-ish)? Is there any reason not to? Will the CTA void those once the hike goes into effect?

You can not pre-purchase a 30 day pass as far as I know.

Hmmm. I go into Jewel and buy sealed 30-day passes all the time. I assume I could buy 5 or 10 instead of just one.

But would the $75 passes suddenly expire or become void once the hike kinks in?

Why is the rail fare increasing more than the bus fare? Isn't it the high cost of gasoline that's forcing the CTA into this position? At least, that's what they keep saying. If that's really the case, then why are rail riders bearing the brunt of this increase?

Thanks for the info everyone--that simplifies matters for me. I'm not doing the Chicago Card Plus. It's my policy not to allow entities like the CTA or the electric company to tap into my credit card or bank account at will. Just too risky. And the Jewel is out of my way. I'd probably eat up the savings getting there and back. So I'll just keep throwing $20 on my regular Chicago Card at L/subway stations whenever it's close to running out. Even without the discount, that seems to work best for me.

And now, in view of the increase, I consider the clock to be running on the replacement of the missing bench in the Monroe Street subway--and other simple passenger-friendliness issues that have been brought up on this blog. CTA, you owe us now. Get cracking.

"Note to MK: So really, why would riders not want to buy the monthly pass with their Chicago Card/Plus? It's cheaper than using the Transit Card for each ride, and your value is protected against loss."

Based on the numbers I have seen, there are about one-fourth the amount of people who use the Chicago Card Plus as the regular Chicago Card. As I have said before, there will still be significant advantages to using the Chicago Card Plus after this change. But if the usage of the regular Chicago Card drops around 85 to 90% in the next few years and if there is around a 30 to 35% drop in Chicago Card Plus users (I predict those numbers will be about right) that is still a huge drop. Since there are considerably more regular Chicago Card users, its decline will overwhelm the numbers. The usage of both Chicago Cards will decrease well over 70%. I didn't realize you could use your Chicago Card Plus as a monthly pass. That will encourage some people to continue to use the card if they were tempted to use a magnatic-strip monthly pass based on its new slight value advantage for some people. But, like I said, there are not that many people using a CCP to make a huge difference.

Even the most frequent CTA riders who use it nearly every day to get to work will normally miss one or two days at their job a month and will, at mininum, end up taking another form of transportation three or four times. A $4 or a $5 savings (or even $14 or $15 if you transfer) in the cost of a monthly vs. commuting two times per weekday without ever once skipping a ride will not encourage many people to move from a transit card to a monthly pass. And even if that wasn't the case, I don't very much think it is a good idea anyway for the CTA to balance their budget by giving monthly pass holders the benefits of whatever caused them to lower their overall fare increases. These are the people who use the CTA the most anyway. They is no potential for very many of them to no longer be customers. The people the CTA should be encouraging to ride, both for its revenue goals and for the external benefits such as to the environment, are those who are most likely to be on the fence about whether they should use it or drive or take a cab. If they wanted to lessen the fare hike, these are the people they should have done it to. And they are not monthly pass users. The lower fare increase for the one, three, and seven day passes is a good thing because it serves this purpose (by accident I assume, it seems clear that they are not actually thinking these things through).

MK - What are you basing those numbers on?

I believe there is no difference between using the Chicago Card Plus or the Transit Pass as your monthly pass: they both require a payment of $75 for 30 days of travel (going up to $86 in January).

As far as value, you also have to factor in the weekends. I take the train twice a day, 5 days a week. Plus I take it at least two or three times on weekends, often more. For me, the monthly pass is the best value.

But I still haven't heard anyone weigh in on my earlier question: can I stock up on the $75 monthly passes now, then use them next year when the price will have increased to $86? Thanks.

Matt, I don't think anyone on here knows whether pre-rate-hike monthly passes will be valid in January. They'd have to find that out directly from the CTA.

"I didn't realize you could use your Chicago Card Plus as a monthly pass."

Isn't this the only reason the Chicago Card Plus exists? I think that is the only difference other than it has to be connected to an account.

I still don't understand why on this board, so many people do not like these cards (either one of them). As far as people not liking someone else knowing where their travel habits, I hope you don't carry a cell phone, because the same information can be had from that if someone really wanted to get it.

People paying cash fares slows things down. When was the last time you saw anyone write a check at a store?

Matt, I'm trying to get a definitive answer from the CTA on your question. But my hunch is YES, you can buy as many $75 transit card monthly passes as you wish and use them after the fare increase. The CTA will happily take your money and earn interest on it, in lieu of getting the higher fare.

Chris says: "Isn't this the only reason the Chicago Card Plus exists? I think that is the only difference other than it has to be connected to an account."

The main reason the CCP exists is for the convenience of having money automatically taken from your credit card when the balance gets low.

I got my daughter a CCP that automatically puts $20 on the card at a certain balance so neither she nor I has to worry about filling it up.

Ya' know, I've been taking the Brown line to work every day since I moved to Chicago from Houston in 1995. I sold my car within the first couple of months since a Dodge Intrepid was more of a Texas car than a Chicago car and I didn't like driving in the city anyway. I haven't had a car since. I can't think of a more affordable and convenient way to commute to work. It's been entertaining and fun. I have no complaints other than I didn't remember to hang onto a few tokens so my jewelry-making friend could make me some buttons and cufflinks.

Heron/Kevin: Thanks for the replies!

And you're right, Kevin, I would be giving them an interest-free loan. But the 15% difference in fares likely wouldn't be made up by the meager interest I get in my savings account!

Thanks, guys.

I'd be curious of the breakdown, but according to what Kevin is saying there are more people that use CCP for the ability to reload $20 than there are people who use CCP for a 30 day pass, either through their own money or transit benefit.

Is that right?

My assumption was that since the passes have an expiration date printed on the back that they would be good for travel up until that time. I didn't think that they might just not be accepted. Hopefully someone can find out before I stock up on 2-day passes.

Chris, I really don't know the breakdown on CCP users.

MK: You're assuming that "monthly pass users" is a fixed population. If the cost of the 30 day pass relative to pay-per-ride fares is going down, then the universe of pass users is likely to increase. (Believe it or not, there are actually more than a few economically rational people in the world!)

Chris said: "People paying cash fares slows things down."

True, but no one on here is really rooting for an upswing in cash as a method of payment. The debate seems to mostly be whether Chicago Cards or magnetic strip cards are faster. At rail stations, the CCs pretty clearly seem to be faster, but on buses it's pretty clearly the magnetic strip cards. I'm not sure whether there are more boardings at rail stations or on buses, but in any event there's rarely so much of a bottleneck at stations, since people pay as soon as they arrive, whereas with buses everyone pays at once when the bus arrives.

Kevin said: "The CTA will happily take your money and earn interest on it, in lieu of getting the higher fare."

Unless the CTA has access to some absolutely fabulous short-term investment opportunity, then it really shouldn't be that happy about getting $75 rather than $86 in, say, six months. Just breaking even would require that the CTA earn almost a 15% return on that $75 in half a year. That's a 30% annual return. If the CTA knows of a reasonably secure short-term investment with that kind of return, then I'm showing up at Ron Huberman's house with flowers and a box of chocolates ASAP.

Whoa Ivan! Way to keep me honest with your number crunching.

I don't have much to add here, except that I'd like to echo painhertz's comments. I moved to Rogers Park from Dallas and ditched my Toyota Matrix in favor of the Red Line, and haven't looked back. It's not only saved me a huge amount of money, but also stress, even considering all of the construction on the tracks.

Perhaps this is why my perspective on the CTA is brighter than that of the serial complainers on this site. Whatever problems the CTA has now, it's a hell of a lot better than not having it at all. That doesn't mean that some things don't need to improve, but it's there, and it works, and I'm grateful for it.

My perspective on the CTA is similar to strannix's -- I'm profoundly relieved not to have to drive just in itself, and not having the costs of car ownership really helps me as a student. It takes a little longer to get places, but at least I'm able to read or just zone out, rather than navigate the second-worst congestion in the country.

Why can't we have Oyster here? The London electronic fare card gives a basic fare of £1.50 (zones 1 and 2). Pay with cash, and that fare goes to £4.00. Also in London there are no transfer charges on a travelcard -- it is strictly by zones. Also, Oyster automatically calculates your fare at the end of each business day and week to ensure you get the lowest possible fare, so no worrying in advance whether or not to buy a pass.

Result, Transport for London doesn't have to handle very much cash. But of course they sell Oyster from vending machines, enable the same card to be recharged with cash or credit (no separation of the two like here) and also have ticket agents at every station who are empowered to resolve problems. I think if they had as few ticket agents as the CTA has, customer acceptance of Oyster would be a very different story.

For my own purposes, I plan to cancel my Chicago Card account as a result of this change in policy. There's simply no point in having the card; it's an inconvenience, it fails, it's difficult to replace. The only reason I got it in the first place was due to the discount.

strannix - you're so right. a lot of people here wouldn't know what to do with themselves if there was no CTA. where i used to live in the south, they wouldn't know what a bus was if it mowed them down in the street. :D

"MK: You're assuming that "monthly pass users" is a fixed population."

I am assuming nothing of the kind.

"If the cost of the 30 day pass relative to pay-per-ride fares is going down, then the universe of pass users is likely to increase. (Believe it or not, there are actually more than a few economically rational people in the world!)"

And if you had actually read my post carefully you would have seen that I am well aware of that. The entire argument I was making is that, for the reasons I stated, very few people will be encouraged to use the monthly pass as a result of its now relative cheaper price vs. the transit card. I specifically stated that there "it will not encourage many people" to switch, which implies that I am well aware that there will be some. Of course when you lower the price, even the relative price vs. something else, there will always be increased demand. The question in this case is whether there will be very little or more significant increased demand. There will be very little. Remember the monthly pass is not available at stations. We are not starting from an equal point in terms of convenience. So the people who will switch to the pass as a result of the fare change will need to decide to spend around five or ten minutes every month to go a little out of their way to save on average about $6, around the price of a sandwich at a fast casual restuarant. Some people, such as the person earlier who stated he uses the CTA seven days a week, will save more. But many of them probably already have the monthly pass. Only a few will be persuaded to change.

Incidently, if you'd like to point out that any of these catogories of specific types of ticket users is not a fixed construct I am probably the last person who needs to be told that. If you read previous threads you will see that I have had to point out around five times in the past month that "Chicago Card users" is not a fixed construct. Ron Huberman's public statements about the fare increase suggest that he doesn't understand that, such as his statement that Chicago card users come from wealthier zip codes (which is a misleading statement for other reasons as well). Not that I think he is really confused about the concept, but in trying to impress the public he fails to see that he looks like he isn't knowledgable about the basic economic principles of the fare structure. There have been several people who have posted here complaining about things that make no sense if people have a choice, as they do, as to what type of ticket to buy. And the media (For yesterday, I am going to single out Crain's Chicago Business) also acts as if the users of the ticket types are fixed permanant concepts. I have seen many articles state "for most riders, fares will rise 25 cents"). Well, transit card rail riders do not have to be transit card rail riders. Those who currently use the transit card on the trains are not affected by the fare increase because they obviously don't care what the fare is. Otherwise they would have made sure to get the lowest price possible.

By the way, Ivan, I don't mean to make it seem like I am yelling at you specifically. It is just annoying that so many people, including the media, seem to fail to grasp simple concepts such as this.

so now that the CTA is jacking up the rates will anything change? will the red line still smell like pee? will they still run too few cars on trains in the evening/night and be over crowded? will capacity go back to 'normal' when 3 track is over? sorry just got a lot of questions for an organization that wants more of our money....just wanna know what they plan to do with it besides line the pockets of executives :)

"MK - What are you basing those numbers on? "

You are going to need to be more specific, AlsoDave. Are you talking about my statement that only one fourth of people who use one of the two types of Chicago Cards use the Chicago Card plus? If so, it was either from a news article or a statement from the CTA. That is just my recollection from seeing the numbers around a year ago, so it is not exact. But it definetely was somewhere between one-fifth and one-third. Or are you instead asking about my estimates as to the decrease in use of the cards as a result of the elimanation of their benefits? That is just based on the fact that we know that almost nobody obtained Chicago Cards prior to the price incentives. So unless someone makes an argument that people riding the CTA in around 2003 were somehow distinctly different and have different decision making processes as those riding the CTA in 2009 and 2013 then we know the numbers will be similar. There will be a few people who might continue to use the cards after the original ones expire out of habit. Perhaps they feel that using a transit card will swing them out of their usual routine. There also might be some people who renew the cards because they have a balance that can be carried over. But there will not be very many people in these two groups. Not to mention that they don't even apply to any new users of the system. So it is just common sense. If the CTA does not change their mind about the pricing structure and the Chicago Cards continue to only be sold in the places they currently are (and nothing else significant changes) and there is not a HUGE drop in their use within the next few years then I will agree to pay $1,000 to each person who wants to make a bet. All they have to do is agree to give me $50 if I am right (as I inevitably will be).

Or are the numbers you are talking about, AlsoDave, the cost of the monthly pass vs. the transit card? If so, my numbers are simply from Kevin's post.

So no one cares that we are paying more to pay for the likes of Jones Lang LaSalle to manage CTA real estate to the tune of $800,000/year plus for the hiring of scores of upper-management, the exact number we cannot find out because the "transparent" CTA won't answer questions about the number and salary of all employees hired and fired under Ron. All is fine because they have a more customer friendly management style than Kruesi and Ron is better looking than Frank? The net result is the same, you have a top heavy operation full of Huberman cronies instead of Frank cronies and money is flying out the door to consultants at a greater rate than under FK.

"Those who currently use the transit card on the trains are not affected by the fare increase because they obviously don't care what the fare is. Otherwise they would have made sure to get the lowest price possible."

So I got a Chicago Card Plus a while back, and I use it when I'm between 30-day passes, figuring I'd get this vaunted discount. Now that the thing has developed a small crack -- a problem I've never had with the magnetic strip cards -- it is apparently entirely unable to function. This after I've maybe used it 10 times. Since the CTA requires that you give them $20 in extra fare up-front for the privilege of using this card, this means I now either have to give the CTA $5 to get another one of these stupid cards, or else I have to forfeit upwards of around $20 of my money.

But hey, I saved $2.50 in fare by having this card! And I only had to argue with bus drivers about 50% of the time about whether I'd already touched my card to the plate or not. What a deal!

The Chicago Card is either a scam or just a really stupid idea -- or both. If the CTA wants more revenue, it should just do it in a straightforward manner by raising fares, not through gimmicks like the $20 pre-paid fare and $5 "replacement" fees.

So I guess it's safe to assume that all those free rides for the senior citizens didn't do much to help the CTA budget. That's a shocker!

I keep my Chicago Card Plus in my wallet. The card reader can read it without my having to take it out, and I think this reduces the wear and tear on it. I've gotten good at figuring out when to swipe it, too. It's just a matter of timing it just before or just after someone's inserted a fare card. I don't get called back to reswipe my card anymore, and I like being able to step past the longer fare card lines on the buses. The smart card users do have an advantage in that regard.

I get my CC+ through work and I love the convenience. As far as tracking my movements, all I can see on the CTA site is that I paid on a bus or a train at this time on this date--not I caught an EB 77 at 2:15 PM Saturday. I don't find this any kind of invasion of privacy. OTOH, if I had to tie a bank account or credit card to it, I would seriously re-think it. I definitely don't want the CTA to have access to my finances.

The C.T.A. should sell carbon offsets to raise revenue.The value could be determined by how policies and improvements take commuters out of their cars. Trees could also be planted on C.T.A. properties.Ivy could grace unsightly el structures.

I just did some quick math here - someone tell me i am either wrong or crazy...

I am on transit benefit, but lets ignore that for now... I ride the Yellow/Purple combination - about 20 days (work days only) per month, neglecting vacation days, etc. I don't live in the city and haven't used a weekend or xfer in years. Follow along with me and tell me where I go off track - so to speak...

previously - with $65.00 paid = 71.00 value added to by CC+ card

71/1.75 = 40.57 rides round this to 40 (20 round trips or basically a whole month for me.)

Now - to take those same rides in 2009: 40*2.25= 90.00 value - for which there is no CC+ loading bonus - so $90 value actually costs me $90.

new cost - old cost: 90.00-65.00 = 25.00 increase

Increase/old cost: 25.00/65.00 = 38% increase in my monthy commute cost.

Thats ludicrous and unreasonable.

Even if i go to the monthly pass (save $4 Whoopee!!) thats still 32% increase.

And yet they claim that their rate increase is well below the 20% they originally talked about.

Who can afford that kind of change?

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