How The CTA Is Ripping Off Visitors To Chicago

How The CTA Is Ripping Off Visitors To Chicago
The CTA's goal for tourists: Make them pay as much as possible.

Sports is in this blog’s name, but my interests range beyond the playing field, so I always threaten to occasionally write about things outside of the sports world.

This is one of those occasions:

I gave up my car a little more than two years ago, so I’ve become an expert on getting around town with the CTA.

Sure, there are some infuriating aspects – asshole/mentally ill passengers, slow zones and filthy trains and stations – but for the most part, Chicago’s transit system is a good way of getting around town.

I don’t even have a complaint about the new Ventra Card system. I made the transition more than six months ago and have had zero issues, although I wish there was a way to reload the card on buses.

My biggest complaint with the CTA has to do with the attitude of its management. They see everything and everyone as a revenue stream, or a potential revenue stream, and will do everything it can to squeeze every possible nickel out of everyone.

What am I talking about?

Many things, but the most egregious example of late is how the new Ventra fare system was designed to take advantage – no, make that RIP OFF – tourists and visitors to the city.

Now that the CTA has stopped selling those magnetic strip fare cards, tourists and visitors to the city have few options to purchase fares – and none of them are good.

They can purchase a Ventra Card for $5 and then use the card for single fares or passes, just like a true Chicagoan. They also can get the $5 back by registering the card online and that will work well if you’ll be in town for a while or you’re a frequent visitor. But if you’re in town for just a day, you probably won’t have a chance to register the card, get your $5 back and then use up the balance on the card.

Those folks likely will return home with a balance on their cards – and that is good news for the CTA. The other good news is that many people won’t bother registering the cards and will simply forfeit the $5.

Besides buying a Ventra Card, the only other option is buying a single-ride Ventra ticket for $3. That’s right, $3 – even though the Ventra Card rate is $2.25 for rail and $2 for buses with a $.25 transfer fee.

The Ventra ticket charges $2.25 for the initial fare plus $.25 for the transfer (whether you use it or not) plus a $.50 fee for the paper ticket.

Of course, you can still pay cash on buses (a single costs $2.25), but you can’t get a transfer.

How can the CTA get away with this? Quite frankly, it’s because the people being taken advantage of are out-of-towners. They won’t complain to the politicians or make a big fuss. Most will be happy to pay the extra money to avoid dealing with traffic, parking fees and taxis.

But that still doesn’t make it right. Instead of celebrating the tourists and visitors that flood Chicago in the warmer months as a bonus for the revenue they bring into the system during off-peak hours, the CTA is devising ways to make them part with more money.

That’s how the CTA rolls.

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Before they were known as Chicago, the band was originally called the Chicago Transit Authority before the CTA made them change it (another great management decision). Here's a song from the CTA that few people complain about:

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