A month later, reduced CTA service becomes the new norm

It's now been a full month since CTA bus service was cut by almost 20% and train service by about 10%.

What, you had forgotten?

We humans are a very evolved animal species, so we can adapt well. And it's a damn good thing, because folks, those cuts are NOT coming back.

Here's why:

  • The unions are not budging. Don't expect them to give up raises they've already become used to or to take unpaid furlough days.
  • The state has no money.
  • The governor already gave us one gift this year to help the CTA avoid raising fare, so that's it from him.
  • The CTA really has nowhere else to turn.

And once service has been cut, it very rarely if ever comes back.

When the CTA tries to present a balanced budget for 2011 later this year, it will encounter the same problems they faced this year -- increasing expenses (ie., payroll) and decreasing revenue (ie., falling ridership). 

And unless the CTA gets VERY creative VERY quickly and starts inking some revenue deals, we can expect more service cuts in 2011. We're safe from fare increases for now, though I think the CTA should examine higher rush hour fares at the very least rather than reduce service. Those revenue deals should include some L station naming rights certainly.

Meanwhile, good thing we are great at adapting, right?


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  • Higher fares during rush hour?? Thats crazy talk! If fares must elevated (no pun intended) then perhaps there should be higher fares during off-peak times when ridership is low since the CTA has higher operational costs per customer.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Employed people have more means to pay higher fares. That's why I suggest it.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    You charge higher fares for the captive market, aka rush hour passengers. Many who ride in the midday are discretionary riders, those who choose to ride but don't have to. Since the (non Red and Blue) trains are empty or at least significantly less crowded, offering discounted fares only adds to revenue, not take away since people who might not have rode will. In addition, creating a rush hour surcharge will shift riders who don't have to ride during rush hour to the off-peak (before or after rush). This reduces crowding, frees up a train or two and increases ridership on the fringe. Losing a passenger during rush is a lot less painful than losing a passenger during the midday.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Let's get over the fiction that the governor gave one gift to the CTA/RTA. Apparently you are on the same type of accounting system as the state government, where borrowing equals revenue. Tell us how the CTA/RTA are going to pay back the $166 million in bonds. Probably the same way that some pump and dumpers I know, who got various mortgages from banks on a $190K condo for $190K, $240K, and $310K, until the bank foreclosed and sold it for $160K. Except, unlike that case, the bank doesn't get stuck, the CTA riders, except for those who get free fares protected by Quinn, do.

    I sure hope that your use of "revenue deals" in the penultimate paragraph means real revenue, not of the type Blago and Quinn defined as revenue in their cash basis budgets. In the private sector, that would be called Ponzi schemes. Nonetheless, like private scheme suckers, those dependent on the state government still fall for them.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    I don't understand why, given the situation, every square inch of the CTA isn't covered in advertising.
    I know the CTA leases the space to one company who manages all of it, but there seems to be a lot of empty ad space. Probably because no one wants to advertise next to that shitty check cashing store.

  • In reply to mickcube:

    Besides that, private business needs some evidence that the expenditure brings in business, especially in these tough times. You probably can't cover each bus with even Illinois Lottery ads.

  • In reply to jack:

    Agreed, but I think that given the low, low quality of advertising on the CTA, it's a pretty good opportunity to run campaigns that people will notice. I'd even notice some shiny new Currency Exchange ads on the Randolph/Wabash platform - it'd be a step up from Puma's ads for their Christmas sale.

  • In reply to jack:

    Also, what's the argument against higher ($3 - $4) cash fares?

  • In reply to mickcube:

    Do you mean the theoretical, or the actual, which is that the "quid for quo" for "Quinn's gift" was no fare increase for two years?

  • In reply to mickcube:

    Matt, I think the only argument right now against higher cash fares is the fact is what Jack mentions -- no fare increase for two years because of the "quid pro quo."

  • In reply to mickcube:

    Why isn't there more political advertising? Candidates can demonstrate they support public transit while getting out their message.

  • In reply to mickcube:

    You also know there is up to 30 million dollars in grants available from Pepsi.Local transit activists could try to come up with programs to snag some of that money. Providing bus passes for job seekers on welfare comes to mind.

  • In reply to mickcube:

    That guy with the mobile garden should apply for Pepsi money too.

  • Well MK, your braggado has gotten the best of you here. You are right that cash riders "...are mostly tourists and other infrequent riders who have not taken the time to get a fare card. These are the most inelastic customers." Again. Correct statement.

    But you clearly don't know what "inelastic" means. It means the opposite of what you conclude. When the price goes up, the consumer keeps buying--keeps paying the higher price. They are inelastic meaning they're less likely to change. Elastic demand means demand is highly sensitive to price changes.

    So since you're now a master of economics, probably 5 or 6 times over, clearly understanding the situation, I believe you now should agree that bus cash fares at CTA should be raised.

  • MK, that's really uncalled for here. So I will ask you to desist with such comments as "I thought we fortunate enough to be done with" him.

    Thank you.

  • I used to live at 13th and Michigan. If fares were $3 or higher I would choose to pay slightly more and just take a taxi cab. Plenty of cabs on Michigan Ave in the morning.

    Reminds me of when Maryland recently raised their taxes on upper income earners, all of a sudden the next year 25% of top earners had "moved" out of state and it caused a slight decline in revenues.

  • I'd like to propose that the city create a "vehicle surcharge" levied on cars parked in all downtown public parking garages. This fund would be added to the CTA's general fund.

    WHY hasn't this group--the people who drive cars to work, park in downtown parking garages and siphon potential public transit dollars--been looked at before? Forget raising fares on the people who are helping to keep public transportation alive. What's another dollar to folks who obviously have enough money to afford the average $8 to $30 parking garage expense every day to park their cars.

  • Higher fares during peak hours isn't socialist, Matt, it's capitalist. You charge more for the people who are most expensive to carry, and who consider their time most valuable, which tends to be the rush hour riders. Same thing the airlines do, charging the highest fares during peak travel periods.

  • Ok a typo. Of course. But, of course, you're now very wrong. Tourists are very INelastic. Their decision to take a CTA bus is probably more hinged on whether they know where the bus is going, whether they feel comfortable asking questions, etc. Paying $3, versus $2 in cash is no big whoop. The just spent $120 on a night in a hotel and their about to spend $50 on junk food for their family at Navy Pier. An extra buck is NOT going to change their behavior. Of Course.

    You have it all backwards. Why do you think governments impose hotel taxes and rental car taxes? 1) it's easier to tax people who can't vote for you, and 2) every economist out there will tell you that tourists are the most INelastic--particularly the guy not traveling on his own dime (business men, conventioneers, etc.). Or course.

    So, please, please, MK, admit that you have economics all backwards and sometimes get things wrong.* Understand the situation. Of course.

    * Although I agree with you from 2008 in discussing zone-based fares. The shortest distance travelers are causing the highest cost in the rush hour, and adding to the capacity constraints.

  • Again economics:
    "But I think charging fares based on an idea of who has a better ability to pay would be very unfortunate policy (and yes, it does tend towards socialist reasoning)."

    NO. It's capitalist reasoning. Charge the guy who's going to pay you the most! Charge the guy who will keep consuming the good and will keep paying you if you raise the price.

    Case in point: back when CTA got rid of the discounts on Chicago Card Plus riders, Huberman said something about wealthy folks using the Cards. This post lit-up with all these complainers, when, in fact, a couple months after the changes went into effect, the Trib did a story showing how Chicago Card Plus kept on rising in rides and revenue, despite a fare increase and the discounts being eliminated. Huberman was right--they kept on riding and kept on paying.

  • I find the contemporary misuse of the word, "socialist" to be comical, in that any time someone disagrees with funding anything for someone else is now "socialist." By definition, Matt, I assume the very socialist taxpayer-supported fire department and police department that keep you safe should equally draw your ire. May I suggest you move to a far away land where all the public services you take for granted are under "volunteer" auspices and supported directly by you and your hobbit's citizenry.

    Automobiles cause a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases compared against public transit.

    Public Transportation allows for cars to be removed from the road. This lowers gas emissions and traffic congestion.

    Automobiles contribute to suburban sprawl.

    Studies have shown that there is a strong inverse correlation between urban population density and energy consumption per capita, and that public transport could play a key role in increasing urban population densities, and thus reduce travel distances and fossil fuel consumption.

    An important social role played by public transport is to ensure that all members of society are able to travel, not just those with a driving license and access to an automobile.

    Time costs can also be reduced as cars removed from the road through public transit options translate to less congestion and faster speeds for remaining motorists.

    Cars create a higher demand for road repair and construction, public safety officers to monitor roadways and assist with accidents, than public transit.

    Another thing, Matt: I didn

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