suntimes
FLAWLESS 
Weather Updates

Emanuel adamant he didn’t tell unhappy CTA riders to drive

8-18-2010---The Blue Line train(s) Idles O'Hare before making return trip---Sun-Times photo

8-18-2010---The Blue Line train(s) Idles at O'Hare before making the return trip---Sun-Times photo

storyidforme: 40816846
tmspicid: 15084404
fileheaderid: 6858989

Updated: December 30, 2012 3:44PM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted Wednesday that he “did not say or imply” that CTA riders who don’t like his decision to raise pass prices and more than double single-ride fares from O’Hare Airport could just drive instead.

Emanuel maintained that he was simply saying that those who do have a choice — like those who own cars and business and leisure travelers arriving at O’Hare — can make a comparison that’s a favorable one for the CTA.

“If you’re coming in to O’Hare, you can pay $50 for a cab to come downtown. You can rent a car, which is probably close to that [price] or you can take the CTA. That’s a choice which is much cheaper,” the mayor said.

“I did not say or imply that you could just drive. I said there’s a choice. People choose public transportation because it’s competitive against private transportation. That’s a choice. And the service is getting better and improved — and that’s my intention.”

Although passes are used on 55 percent of all CTA rides, the mayor noted that basic fares paid for the remaining 45 percent of CTA rides will be unchanged and remain $2.25 through 2015.

“Neither gas at the pump, milk, bread, eggs [or] any other staple can say for the next four years, the price will stable,” he said.

“And while you pay a stable price for 45 percent [of CTA rides], you can do other things that you can’t do in a private vehicle. You can read the paper. You can email. You can talk quietly on the phone. ... So, it’s making public transportation competitive.”

Earlier this week, Emanuel got himself in a bit of hot water when he tried to defend the CTA’s decision to raise the price of one-day, three-day, seven-day and 30-day passes — by anywhere from 16 percent to 74 percent — and charge $5 for a one-way trip from O’Hare on the Blue Line.

“Basic fares stay the same, which you cannot say about gas prices. ... That will be true this year, next year, the following year and the fourth year. You cannot say that about gas prices. Now, you as a commuter will pick. You can either drive to work or you can take public transportation,” he said then.

“The standard fare stays the same and energy prices at the pump do not. And that is a choice that the commuter will pick which way they want to get to work. ... Public transportation is different than driving to work. You will make that choice.”

Since the CTA is the only option for many riders who don’t own cars, some reporters interpreted the mayor’s remarks as an arrogant and insensitive version of, “Let `em eat cake.”

The Huffington Post linked to those stories, breathing life into the issue and holding Emanuel up to ridicule. That gave birth to a Twitter account: “@Rahmsaysdrive.”

At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Emanuel was asked as he was leaving the podium whether he regrets suggesting that Chicagoans can choose to drive to work, rather than taking the CTA.

Visibly annoyed, the mayor returned to the podium — something he seldom, if ever, does — and answered the question.

“That’s not what I said,” the mayor replied.

Emanuel noted that Chicago’s “reliable public transportation system” is one of many reasons businesses and residents are choosing to return to the city. And, after years of neglect, Chicago is now investing heavily in the CTA, he said.

“That is a choice that individuals will make. And I said it in [that] way because I think public transportation is competitive against private transportation — on price, convenience, service and comfort,” the mayor said.

As he walked away from the podium for the second time, Emanuel was asked to explain how he believes his earlier comments had been misinterpreted. He ignored the question.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.