CTA plans to raise bus and train fares by 25 cents

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - The CTA plans to raise bus and train fares by 25 cents, the transit agency announced Wednesday.

If approved, the fare hikes will go into effect Jan. 7, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The good news is that the transit agency has no plans to cut service, CTA officials said Wednesday while announcing their 2018 budget proposal.

Under the plan:

  • Card fares will rise from $2 to $2.25 for bus passengers
  • Cash fares for bus riders will rise from $2.25 to $2.50
  • Card fares for trains (cash is not an option) will rise from $2.25 to $2.50
  • Monthly Ventra pass will rise from $100 to $105
  • Reduced fare rides (a half price option available to students and people with disabilities) will increase 10 cents for bus rides and 15 cents for train rides.

The last time the Chicago Transit Authority raised fares was in 2009, when a quarter was tacked on to base fares.

The major reason for the latest fare increases: a $33 million cut in 2018 funding from the state. Loss of riders has dented CTA coffers too, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.

The fare hikes will generate an estimated $23 million in 2018.

An additional $23 million will be garnered mostly from decreased labor costs, cheaper fuel and additional add revenues, Steele said.

“The state budget cut presents too much of a hurdle for us to cross without the additional revenues,” Jeremy Fine, the CTA’s chief financial officer, said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters.

“To close that gap we really looked at all options … and while the fare hikes are never an easy decision, we didn’t want to roll back our service to our customers.”

Fine said that cost cutting and bringing in additional revenue since 2011 totaled about $300 million, but the extra cash could not stave off fare hikes.

Also under the proposed 2018 budget, 45 CTA employees will be fired and 70 job vacancies will be frozen. The jobs being eliminated will not be positions where employees deal with customers or provide public safety, CTA Steele said.

The overall proposed 2018 operating budget is about $1.5 billion, about $10 million less than this year’s budget.

However, CTA officials are currently in arbitration with their largest labor group, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308.

Labor costs make up about 67 percent of the total operating budget.

Fine said that should transit workers be granted a raise through arbitration — which has been ongoing since this summer — CTA officials will work on-the-fly to sort out the curve ball.

There’s no money earmarked in the proposed budget to cover any salary increases. Any solution is “to be determined,” Fine said.

Steele said the announcement of the fare hikes so close to Thanksgiving, a time when people traditionally take a break from paying attention to the news, was simply a coincidence, and not mean to cushion against blowback.

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