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CTA riders like ‘de-crowding,’ but not happy about fare hikes for multiday passes

Number 11 CTA bus Brown Line Western Ave. statiMonday December 17 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times

Number 11 CTA bus at the Brown Line Western Ave. station Monday, December 17, 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 19, 2013 6:11AM

The CTA’s “de-crowding” plan got a big thumbs up from some Brown Line riders who appreciated more frequent trains and more room to breathe during Monday’s morning commute.

“On a scale of one to 10, I’d give it a 10,” said Dorothy McCullough, 52, who lives on the West Side and was taking her twice-weekly trip to visit a friend in Lincoln Square. She said it was easy to find a seat thanks to the first rush-hour test of “de-crowding” on Monday.

But on Monday night, plans to raise the price of CTA passes — used by 76 percent of riders — got a thumbs-down from the handful of people at a public hearing on the CTA’s proposed budget at Westinghouse High School. They called the increases “exorbitant,’’ and an attempt to balance the budget on the backs of needy people who can’t afford cars. The fare increases are part of a proposed $1.39 billion operating budget up for a CTA board vote Tuesday.

On Monday morning, Vanessa Hernandez, 19, who lives in Pilsen but works in Lincoln Square, echoed McCullough’s feelings.

“There’s more room for you,” Hernandez said. “When it’s crowded, you have to squeeze in between people — it’s just too tight.”

The reshuffling, which started Sunday, boosts service on 48 bus and six rail lines. As part of the effort, the CTA also has eliminated a dozen low-ridership bus routes and discontinued segments of four routes.

Yolanda Madison, 30, a dentist who lives in North Center but commutes to her office on the Northwest Side, was more than a little irked Monday that she can no longer take the No. 11 straight to work. Now she has to walk to Lincoln Square to catch the bus because the No. 11 route no longer runs between Western and Fullerton.

“I don’t see how this is effective for that many people,” Madison said while waiting for her bus outside the Brown Line Western stop. “Besides it being an inconvenience for me, I know that when I was on the bus, I saw lots of elderly people.”

During public hearing Monday night, seven people raised complaints about the CTA complaints, most of them focused on the proposed fare increases. The one-day pass would increase 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 to generate $56 million in revenue.

“The one-day going up $4.25 — that can be a meal for a person who is underprivileged,’’ Essex Dautson told CTA board members.

Darlene Hale also criticized a plan to increase Blue Line fares from O’Hare Airport by 120 percent, from $2.25 to $5, for those who don’t use passes.

“You’re going to make the rest of us citizens suffer so you can raise the [fares] on tourists,” Hale said. “Please, please reconsider this because you are hurting everyday people.’’

CTA officials contend passes are increasing for only the first time in four years and emphasized that base fares are staying the same to avoid hurting out-of-work people who may use the CTA less frequently than multiday pass users.

CTA President Forrest Claypool reminded the audience that they will get something out of the fare increase: some newer, cleaner buses and some station “face-lifts.’’

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