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Brief reprieve from 120% fare hike for CTA riders leaving O’Hare

Updated: January 20, 2013 6:32AM

Chicago Transit Authority Board members approved fare increases on single- and multi-day CTA passes Tuesday, but gave some Blue Line riders traveling out of O’Hare Airport a six-month reprieve from a 120 percent fare jump.

Any traveler using a Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus will be spared the Jan. 14 increase in a single-ride fare — from $2.25 to $5 — for Blue Line travelers leaving O’Hare — but only for the next six months.

By then, the CTA hopes to be able to offer the exemption only to O’Hare workers. Forrest Claypool, CTA president, said the agency needs the extra time to figure out how to identify and spare the probably small number of O’Hare workers who purchase single-ride fares to get to work.

Transit authority board members were persuaded by recent testimony from some O’Hare workers that they were being unfairly impacted by fare increases intended to target tourists, Claypool said.

“They didn’t want low-wage workers at a job at the airport to be adversely affected by something that was really meant to affect tourists,’’ Claypool said.

The six-month reprieve means the loss of $750,000 from what was supposed to be $56 million in revenue generated by fare increases set to go into effect Jan. 14. However, to make up the difference, Claypool said, the CTA will delay a handful of office-based technology upgrades by three to six months.

That $750,000 could have spared the No. 11 Lincoln Avenue bus from the elimination of its Western-to-Fullerton leg for six months — or even have kept it alive with less frequent service for up to a year, said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th). Nearly half of the No. 11 line was shut down Sunday as part of a CTA crowd reduction plan that axed what the CTA called duplicative bus routes to bankroll more frequent service on heavily-used bus and rail lines.

“They heard the argument from the Department of Aviation and O’Hare workers but they didn’t hear from my community or seniors asking the CTA to save their lifeline,” Pawar said.

“I just wish they would have listened to my community as well,’’ he said.

As part of a $1.39 billion budget approved Tuesday, board members also agreed to boost fares on CTA passes for the first time in four years.

Starting Jan. 14, the one-day pass will rise from $5.75 to $10; the three-day from $14 to $20, the seven-day from $23 to $28, and the 30-day from $86 to $100. About 55 percent of CTA riders use such passes.

Students will get a break. Their bus and rail fares are dropping from 85 cents to 75 cents for those with student permits.

Despite the increases on passes, base fares will remain intact and Claypool continued to insist Tuesday that the CTA does not anticipate any other fare increases through 2015.

“[CTA Chairman] Terry Peterson has indicated that on multiple public occasions and I back my chairman,’’ Claypool said.

Also Tuesday, CTA board members agreed to give Dat Donut a 10-year lease to operate out of the 95th Street terminal on the Red Line. Dat is known for its handcut donuts — some of them the size of a human head.

Though the second-highest bidder, the South Side donut-maker was chosen in keeping with the board’s committment to “local enterprise,’’ Claypool said.

In addition, the CTA announced that two of nine companies that contract-out CTA bus routes have agreed to increase their portion of the costs so that the CTA no longer has to underwrite them. Swinging those deals were the William Wrigley Jr. Co., which is bankrolling the cost of the No. 132 Goose Island Express bus to its Goose Island Innovation Center, and UPS, which is underwriting the cost of the No. 169 69th/UPS express bus to its facility in suburban Hodgkins, CTA officials said.

The CTA is still negotiating the seven other contracted routes.

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