School's out, but tourists are in on the CTA

It's the typical good news/bad news story.

School's out, so trains and buses are less crowded during the morning and early afternoon rush hours. This week my Red Line train has been less crowded than the week before, when Chicago Public Schools were still in session.

cta passenger.jpg

Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

But then there's the bad news that comes every summer for CTA riders -- the arrival of tourists. As Jon Hilkevitch reported earlier this week, tourists paying cash on buses lengthen boarding times. "Higher summer ridership overall results in 12 percent to 14 percent
more cash-paying customers riding in June and July than during the
winter, according to the CTA planning department."

Not surprisingly, the bus routes with highest percentage of cash-paying passengers "were the No. 10 Museum of Science & Industry and the No. 124 Navy
Pier, both at 15 percent; and the No. 130 Museum Campus, 14 percent,
according to the CTA."

Tourists aren't the only folks causing bus delays. Longer intervals between buses due to service cuts result in crowding at bus stops. We heard there were about 40 people waiting to board the No. 80 Irving Park at the Blue Line stop the other day. If only 10 of those passengers pay cash, at an average 25 seconds per cash transactions, that's almost 5 minutes just for them to board.

What's your experience with boarding buses? Also, is boarding any faster since the CTA moved the Chicago Card "target" to the farebox?


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  • I think having the Chicago Card reader on the farebox makes things slightly more efficient: now no matter what fare medium is used, one passenger steps up, pays, moves on. With the "Go Lane," one passenger stepped up, and while paying, another swiped his/her card in the Go Lane, got yelled at to wait until the other passenger finished, etc. The Go Lane seemed like it would be simultaneous but wasn't (at least not always). The new way seems more consistent, improving efficiency just a touch. And the way so many people get on, pay, and stand in front rather than move toward the back made the Go Lane work even less well.

  • It's much better with the card reader on the farebox, although I was on a few buses this last week that still had the idiotic Go Lane.
    1. I'm cracking up over the posters the CTA has telling us the reader on the farebox is a better way to pay. That's what they said about the Go Lane! A little schizoid is what they are.
    2. Boarding a crowded bus is easier because I don't have to fight my way to the reader as no one is blocking the farebox the way people were always standing in front of the Go Lane.
    Just what it is that everyone with a stroller has to block the front of the bus?
    Why won't the drivers tell people to move to the rear, like they used to?
    When is the CTA going to enforce the rule about folding up strollers?
    3. When is the CTA going to do something about all the jerks that stand in front of the rear door & make you squeeze by them to get off the bus? The bus even has open seats & theses jerks do that. Almost all are 20 something men!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    God forbid that you have to walk past someone to get off a public bus.... Unless the person is literally blocking the whole back door, I think someone standing there is better than clogging the aisle for people trying to get to the back of the bus.

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    What? I find it unbearably rude when there are one or two people blocking the rear door (or the doors on the train) when you're clearly trying to get out and they make NO EFFORT whatsoever to move. You won't get punished/the bus or train won't leave if you step off to get out of the way.

  • In reply to sarahjane0804:

    Is it that hard to say "excuse me" SJ? I stand at the back door of the bus regularly (I'm fat, take up 2 seats, and block the aisle so no one can move so the back door is easiest to move around for folks). I move when asked, or when its obvious that the person cant get past my bulk.

  • In reply to DavidJ:

    Oh my latest incident was when there were two people blocking the doorway, I DID say excuse me, btw (you act as if I'm some sort of elitist, please), and one of them SAID "let her out" but they still didn't move out of the way. This caused me to trip and almost fall face first into a pole on the platform.

    I don't think it's that difficult to move, or at least make an ATTEMPT to move (stepping off the vehicle and back on is NOT that hard), when people are "obviously" exiting.

  • In reply to sarahjane0804:

    I normally advise tourists to get a 1- or 3-day visitor's pass (or a regular 7-day-pass if someone is planning on making a week of it). The 2-day passes used to be great for weekends, but unfortunately they have been discontinued. I just wish CTA would step up and sell all pass types at all stations (you know, like they do in other cities).

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    I think it's funny that those CTA posters telling us the reader on the farebox is a better way to pay show the card reader big and bold on the left side of the main farebox while every bus I've been on since the change has the touch card reader on the RIGHT side, where the card reader always was. Unless the CTA is planning some new, expensive conversion, or all new buses have the reader to the left, typical CTA efficiency with the posters - kind of like the maps with the misplaced stations.

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    I'm not going to complain about the tourists--the CTA needs their money.

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    If you read my comment, you'd have seen that I wrote that they stand in the back door area even though there are empty seats for them!
    And they stand there for blocks on end, it's not like they're getting off the next stop.

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    I actually prefer the relocated RFID target - just slightly more efficient, somehow. Where go lanes made the most sense was on the L, in theory, but in practice there are always enough turnstiles to go around, at least at the stations I frequent, so that nobody waits more than a few seconds to pay.

    As for cash customers, accepting cash on the bus is helpful not only for visitors but for people who simply show up on the bus with an insufficient balance (unlike train stations, no farecard vending machine). On the other hand, if the CTA goes forward with plans for the fareboxes to accept bank cards, that should materially reduce the amount of cash going in -- and the time it takes people to board, if the system is set up right. As eBob said, increased sale of passes would help too, even beyond the "Buy a 3-day pass" messages on tourist-heavy bus routes.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I'll say this for the teenagers, at least they know the routine and know where their stop is. They may be loud and obnoxious and carrying big backpacks, but the know the drill. They don't tend to step up to the farebox and ask if the bus is going to Navy Pier and if not, which one does. How much does it cost. Why are there no transfers for cash fares and on and on and on.

  • I think drivers have had it with getting abused for trying to enforce the rules and common sense. I blame most CTA problems squarely on the passengers. It's amazing to what depths of rudeness, self-serving, and stupidity people can sink once they board a bus or train. These days, the main truth seems to be that "You can't say anything about anything." The jerks win, and anyone who questions what they do is the real criminal.

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