CTA to raise price of transit passes, add surcharge to rides from O’Hare
BY TINA SFONDELES Transportation Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org November 20, 2012 11:12AM
The CTA today revealed they plan to add an additional $2.75 surcharge on one-time trips on the Blue Line from O’Hare into the city, meaning a trip in from O’Hare will cost $5.00. Photographed on Tuesday, November 20, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
how do we compare? a look at other cities
Many airports offer buses or shuttles to nearby subway or train stations, but some offer train rides at the airport. Here’s a list of fares for those airports compared with the CTA’s proposed $5 fare for riders without passes.
◆ Portland International Airport, Portland, Oregon: TriMet light rail service connects riders from the airport to other areas of Portland and Beaverton, Oregon. The fare is $2.50 for adults. The catch: The first train begins at 4:44 a.m. and the last one runs at 11:49 p.m.
◆ San Francisco International Airport: BART trains take travelers directly from the airport to San Mateo County, San Francisco and the East Bay. Fares vary by distance, but a one-way trip from the airport to the popular Embarcadero area is $8.25 one way.
◆ John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York: Travel to and from JFK via AirTrain is $5 as you enter or exit the system. Then travelers can connect to the subway for an additional $2.25 fare.
◆ Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: MARTA’s airport station is attached to the airport. One-way fares into the downtown area are $2.50.
◆ Boston Logan International Airport: The MBTA offers subway services and Bus Rapid Transit service to and from downtown Boston. One-way fare from Logan to downtown Boston is $2.50.
◆ Philadelphia International Airport: SEPTA fare is $7 one way to five stops. An additional fare is required for connections to other SEPTA regional rail lines.
Updated: January 9, 2013 2:05PM
The CTA had no qualms on Tuesday about a group of riders it’s targeting to balance the budget: tourists.
The transit agency wants to raise the one-way trip from O’Hare on the Blue Line from $2.25 to $5 for riders who don’t have single-day, three-day, seven-day or monthly passes. That’s part of a larger plan that also raises the costs of all passes but avoids raising the base fare of $2.25 for riders without passes.
The $5 O’Hare tab would bring Chicago more in line with big cities around the country — although some cities, such as San Francisco, offer faster, cleaner rapid-transit options for the extra cost.
In Chicago, it’s still the Blue Line — and the increase didn’t go over well with some riders heading to O’Hare Tuesday afternoon.
“I think this happening alongside the economic situation right now, it’s a little frustrating,” said Jory Zola, a lawyer from Cincinnati.
Zola, 26, said he comes to Chicago to search for a job. “Things are difficult for everybody right now.”
Beijing native Jianying Han said she’s shocked at public transit fares in Chicago. She said fares in China average from 20 cents to 50 cents.
“Public transportation here, it should be cheaper,” said Han, 42. “For taxis, that’s OK, but public transportation to the airport, it’s for the public — the public that pays taxes that should go to support that transportation.”
New fares would take effect Jan. 14 after two public meetings — Dec. 10 at CTA Headquarters and Dec. 17 at Westinghouse College Prep — and with the approval of the CTA board and the RTA board next month.
Weekly passes would increase from $23 to $28, and 30-day passes would jump from $86 to $100.
Three-day passes will increase from $14 to $20, and one-day passes will go from $5.75 to $10. The CTA said 55 percent of riders use passes.
CTA President Forrest Claypool said the increases are needed to balance the $1.39 billion budget and to put the transit agency on par with other national transit agencies.
He said Midway Airport wasn’t an option for a fare bump because “there’s a lot of workers that go in and out of Midway. . . . Midway, it doesn’t have the same amount of travelers.”
More than 3 million riders used the O’Hare Blue Line station last year. A $5 fare is still a “tremendous value,” “and it adds to the total mix of things we need to raise the funds we need to balance the budget,” Claypool said.
O’Hare’s new transit fare will be more on par with travel from JFK International Airport in New York. Commuters there pay a flat $5 fee for leaving the airport, then must pay $2.25 for regular subway fare.
San Francisco International Airport offers the rapid-transit BART, which takes travelers directly from the airport to San Mateo County, San Francisco and the East Bay. Fares vary by distance, but a one-way trip to the popular Embarcadero area is $8.25 one-way.
Some of the more inexpensive airport-to-train rides in the country are at Portland International Airport, where a light-rail service connects travelers to other areas of Portland for $2.50. And the fare is just $2.50 at Boston Logan International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Claypool announced the plans a day after the CTA and the union representing its bus and rail workers signed a tentative four-year labor agreement that includes some work-rule changes the CTA was seeking to reduce expenses. Workers will be guaranteed fewer “swing” runs that divide work into pieces, prolonging the day, and employees also will get preventive health care.
Claypool said the labor agreement shaved $60 million from the budget deficit. He said management reforms, cost-curbing labor agreements and freezing the base fare helped cut the deficit.
The increases are expected to generate $56 million on an annual basis, which will help to eradicate a projected $165 million budget shortfall.
But the increase is not indicative of more to come: “This will put us on a solid fiscal path for many years,” Claypool said. “Our passes were really . . . the most generous in the country and they hadn’t changed for many, many years.”
When asked whether riders should stock up on the current reduced fares for passes, Claypool declined to comment. It’s unclear whether the agency will set an expiration on those passes, just as Metra did last week when it increased the fare for 10-day riders.
Although next year’s budget does not include new service cuts, the CTA already is cutting 12 bus routes and shortening two others in December.
Riders for Better Transit, a transportation advocacy group, said passengers are getting less transit service for their money as the CTA cuts service and bumps up fares.
Ron Burke, director of the nonprofit Active Transportation Alliance, which runs the Riders for Better Transit campaign, said the increases are just a temporary fix — “not a long-term solution to CTA’s funding woes.”
“If the best Chicagoland can hope for is to maintain the status quo of transit — and we can’t even do that because of regular fare increases, service cuts and crumbling infrastructure — then our region is in serious trouble,” Burke said. “CTA and Metra are barely squeaking by. We can’t keep expecting transit riders to bear more of the burden. The system is broken and only our elected leaders in City Hall, Springfield and D.C. have the power to fix it.”
CTA spokesman Brian Steele said Burke is “looking in the rear-view mirror and perhaps hasn’t followed events at the CTA since Mayor Emanuel took office.”
He referenced the $2 billion in projects the transit agency has begun or is planning, including next May’s massive overhaul of the South Side Red Line branch.