Now that there's a big difference between paying per ride for your CTA trip vs. buying a weekly or monthly pass, it may literally pay for riders to carefully evaluate which fare mode is least expensive, based on their commuting habits.
First, let's recap the proposed increases in rates for passes, and other changes announced in the 2013 CTA budget released today:
- Base fares are unchanged: $2.25 for each rail trip; $2 for each bus trip; 25 cents to transfer to a bus if you use a transit card or pass other than cash.
- No cuts in bus or rail service.
- Monthly passes will increase by $14 to $100, from $86.
- Weekly passes will rise by $5 to $28, from $23.
- Three-day passes will increase by $6, to $20 from $14
- One-day passes will rise by $4.25, to $10 from $5.75
- The Metra Link-up pass will increase by $10, to $55 from $45.
- The fare from O'Hare on the Blue Line cost $5, a $2.75 increase from $2.25. Only riders who use multi-day passes or reduced fares will be able to avoid the increase.
- The reduced fare for seniors and others will increase by 15 cents to $1 from 85 cents. Low-income seniors and persons with a disability who have a valid RTA Circuit Ride Free Permit will continue to ride for free on the CTA.
- The reduced fare elementary/high school students will decrease from 85 cents to 75 cents, saving a shiny dime per trip.
So, if you're not a student, get out your calculator and start figuring which fare-paying mode is best for you. Let me help. (For this analysis, we'll assume that each month contains 21 work days on average.)
Bus only, no transfer. The cash fare stays the same at $94.50. That's a $5.50 saving over the soon-to-be $100 monthly pass. You might want to buy the monthly pass, if for nothing but the convenience factor. If you use a transit card, the base fare is $2, or $84 total for the month. That's a $16 saving over the soon-to-be $100 monthly pass. No brainer to stick with cash on the transit card, as long as you don't transfer.
Bus only with transfer to bus. Add $10.50 for the transfer if you use a transit card, for $94.50 total. Again, consider the monthly pass for convenience, and if you figure on using the card for at least one more round trip. If you're using cash and transferring on a bus, you're really losing big time anyway because you have to pay $2.25 for each trip.
Train, bus transfer combo. The per-ride fare (you would have to use a transit card or Chicago Card because of the transfer) per month would be $99.75. Buy the monthly pass for the convenience.
Train only, no transfer. The per-ride fare would be $94.50 per month, or $5.50 cheaper than a monthly pass. If you know you will never transfer or use your card on the weekend, then pay by ride. Remember that you have to put cash on your card occasionally, so factor in the convenience of a monthly pass.
I don't own a car, and take a train only to work. I will gladly pay $14 more for the convenience of the pass. I know I will use the pass enough to cover the additional cost.
I will have further analysis of the budget in the days ahead.