The Chicago Transit Board today approved an amended version of the proposed 2004 budget, which includes a 25-cent increase to the base fare. The CTA has not had a fare increase since 1991. Starting January 1, the base fare will increase to $1.75, however, the cost of a transfer will decrease to 25 cents, down from the current rate of 30 cents, and the current transfer policy will remain unchanged. Prices will not change on 1-day, 7-day and 30-day passes.
Transit Board members voted to keep reverse transfers that allow customers two additional rides on the rail or bus system within two hours of a transfer being issued, regardless of direction. The decision came as a result of comments from CTA customers throughout the extended public comment period.
CTA Chairman Carole Brown also announced that the CTA board would open its regular meetings to public comment, and would hold additional hearings next year in neighborhoods throughout the CTA service area.
"Hearing from our customers on a regular basis will help this board to gain an even deeper understanding of the needs of those who rely on the system every day," said Brown. ?We will examine how other boards manage this process and develop a system suitable for the CTA."
In addition to preserving the transfer policy, as part of the approved budget the board added an additional reduction of $2.5 million in operating expenses that will be achieved through a combination of cost-saving measures and further reducing the number of non-service related positions.
"The most important thing to come out of the 2004 budget process is that we were able to find alternatives to balance the budget without cutting service," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?The new fare structure allows us to maintain our current level of service while funding operations and meeting the state requirements for a balanced budget."
Under the 2004 budget, the 10 percent bonus will continue to apply to Transit Cards only until a similar bonus is available through the new Chicago Card PlusTM, which is expected to be available to customers in early 2004. Beginning January 1, 2004, the $5 fee to purchase the Chicago CardTM and the Chicago Card Plus will be waived until March 31, allowing customers to take advantage of the improved capability of the Chicago Card Plus without the initial cost. The board also directed that customers in the Transit Benefit program be able to access the Chicago Card Plus as soon as is practicable.
The Chicago Card Plus will allow customers to automatically add more value to their cards via credit or debit cards when the balance runs low. The Chicago Card Plus will also be used in the Transit Benefit program, increasing the ease with which businesses can participate in this cost-saving program.
The Transit Benefit program provides a tax benefit to both employers and employees by enabling them to purchase fares with pre-tax earnings. Employers benefit by getting an annual payroll tax savings of approximately 10 percent of what their employees set aside due to decreased payroll costs. Currently 2,800 employers and 65,000 employees in the Chicagoland area are enrolled in the Transit Benefit program.
As part of the approved budget, the board also directed that Chicago Cards be distributed more effectively to neighborhoods throughout the service area by expanding distribution to additional retail outlets. In 2002, the CTA introduced the Chicago Card, a touch-and-go electronic farecard designed to provide more efficient service by improving boarding on buses and trains, as well as providing fare balance protection, a four-year use life and greater durability than magnetic strip cards.
A study to explore incorporating Chicago Card technology into the City of Chicago's plan to enable credit card use in taxis for the benefit of paratransit customers who participate in CTA's Taxi Access program was also added to the approved budget.
The board also decided against a rate increase for CTA Park & Ride lots that was proposed as an additional revenue enhancing measure. Park & Ride facilities provide customers with greater access to the CTA bus and rail system and increase travel flexibility. The CTA operates 16 Park & Ride facilities throughout its service area.# # #