CTA's bus, rail fares among highest in country in cents per mile

CTA bus riders are paying the highest fare in cents per mile in the United States compared to other big cities. And rail riders pay nearly the highest fare in cents per mile. These not-so-fun facts were crunched and  published recently by Geoff Dougherty at Chicago Current.

The CTA bus fare per mile was 32 cents in 2009, and is adjusted to account for cost of living. The least expensive big city fare was 13 cents per mile charged by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Washington charged 19 cents per mile, and New York 21 cents.

On the rail side of the equation, Washington had the highest (and arguably the most comfortable) rail ride in cents per mile at 22 cents. Boston's system cost 21 cents per mile, and the CTA was next in line at 16 cents per mile - tied with Philadelphia's rail system. Both New York City and Atlanta charged just 10 cents per rail mile.

Chicago Current mined the data from the National Transit Database.

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  • Washington & San Francisco are the only cities that charge rail passengers by the distance they travel. Everyone else is a flat rate.
    The LA fare is $1.50 a ride. Seniors [62+] pay 55¢ & off peak, seniors pay just 25¢ a ride.

  • Distance-based fares sounds kind of interesting. Curious if it is considered regressive or not.

  • In reply to ClarkBender:

    It's extremely regressive.
    Washington & SF fares are as high as a commuter RR.
    In addition, it can't be done on the CTA as it requires a large exit area so that passengers that exit at busy stations can gather & wait to exit & swipe their farecards.
    It won't ever happen here.

  • Like Kruesi saying that CTA gets only 90 cents per ride subsidy, and it later turning out that this is based on unlinked trips, on which CTA still only collects 97 cents, one has to wonder about the methodology used, to come to any conclusion whether it is valid.

    If we put that together with this guy saying that CTA charges 32 cents per mile, the average trip on the L would be about 3.3 miles. Might be valid for going from Belmont to Lake, but not from Howard.

    Also, because of 2 hours for about $2.50 (based on deductions from cash fare cards for a ride and 2 transfers), you can pretty much ride anywhere in the city for one fare.

    No one has any idea how many people are riding from 95th to Linden, for instance, for $2.25.

    As far as distance based fares, I was going to discuss that in connection with CTA picking up in North Riverside (heck you can ride out to the suburbs on one fare), but the main issue (considering such things as the old IC fare system and buses other cities, some of which have eliminated them) is how to you get CTA passengers to scan when exiting to determine the fare? Not to mention the number of people on monthly or weekly cards or the like. Thus, rhetorically asking about it doesn't get the job done.

  • LA is cutting bus lines because they're concentrating on rail I would guess light rail, but I don't know that for sure.

    Distance-based fares would mean the people riding up from 95th to come downtown to clean your offices would pay more than the people who work in those offices (generally, there are exceptions). Somehow, I don't find that particularly fair.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    You are making certain assumptions about where people who work in those offices live.

    For that matter, people who work in Deerfield probably live within 3 or 4 miles of there, but the janitorial staff probably doesn't. Are you campaigning for flat Metra fares on that basis?

    "Equity" doesn't pay the freight.

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