Elevating Chicago

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Convenient, I think not.


I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

We all have problems with the CTA.  Bus and train service cuts have affected our lives more than expected, the El cars smell like urine far too often, and the El bridges, especially those in the suburbs, look as if they might fall at any moment.  Through all of their many problems, however, the convenience factor of the CTA is the worst, and based on their current management, looks as if that convenience level may continue to decrease.

I'm not an economist, but the recent moves made by the CTA seem faulty.  As the CTA began to lose money, they decided to make service cuts and will soon raise prices.  As this happens, consumers such as I will use the CTA less frequently, thus decreasing their profits.  Soon the CTA will have to make even more service cuts and raise prices once again.  This seems to be a never-ending cycle of "death," and these illogical moves made by the CTA could eventually lead to their bankruptcy.

In my opinion, if the CTA wants to increase profits and end the cycle of "death," they must think of ways to increase riders, not decrease them.  Improving their convenience level is one way to do so.  I understand that with less capital, it is harder to pay the bus drivers, and thus harder to keep the same number of routes.  But if I have to wait a half-hour for a bus or train, I would much rather walk, ride my bike, or even pay for a cab.  Even if it means borrowing money, it is imperative that the CTA bring back the same level of service as a year ago.

Another way that the CTA is a perfect example of inconvenient public transportation is in regards to their monthly passes.  The CTA currently offers a 30-day pass for $86.  For some riders, this is a good deal.  Let's say these riders want to buy a pass, can they get it at any El station?  No, they can only buy online, at select Jewel or Dominick's, or at currency exchanges.  New York's MTA offers a monthly pass that you can buy at any station.  Boston's MBTA also offers a monthly pass that you can buy at any station.  San Francisco's MUNI offers a monthly pass that can be bought at 80% of their stations.  Why is the CTA lacking in this department?  If I rode the CTA enough to warrant buying a monthly pass, I wouldn't want to go to a currency exchange to buy one.  Little things like this, discourage riders and therefore make the CTA less profitable.  In addition, I guarantee you that most Chicagoans don't even know that the CTA offers a 30-day pass.  If they marketed their pass and sold it at every station, I'd put money down that they'd sell more.

Livable cities need efficient, profitable, and most importantly, convenient public transportation.  At this point, the CTA is none of the above.  If they don't get their act together soon, Chicago could become the next Los Angeles: the land of many cars and of 10 hour traffic.



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