2,500 riders get $2.49 refunds after New Year's Eve snafu

The CTA last week issued refunds to 2,500 passengers who erroneously swiped their Chicago Card Plus during the time the CTA was offering rides for a penny on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

A CTA Tattler reader shared this email he got from the CTA:

The CTA continued its tradition of offering penny rides on New Year’s Eve beginning at 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 31, until 6 a.m. Friday, January 1 (New Year’s Day). Some customers were erroneously instructed to tap their Chicago Card Plus card to CTA’s fare equipment, which resulted with a fare being deducted. We reviewed our files and noticed your Chicago Card Plus account was among those charged. CTA has reversed the charges and adjusted your account balance.

A CTA spokesperson said that rather than reprogram all the fare boxes to accept a penny for 14-hour span of the penny-ride offer, the CTA “wanted customer assistants to track the number of
riders who paid a penny and then provide those riders access. But
it appears some customers swiped their cards.”

Jeff, the reader who alerted me to his $2.49 refund, said it was nice that the CTa took care of this so quickly, but “if it would have helped contribute some money to the deficit, I would’ve gladly let them keep it.”

Nice offer Jeff, but the total refunded by the CTA was only $6,225. The deficit (before service cuts were instituted) was well over $100 million.


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  • You know, the refunds themselves may not add up to much, but when you are $100 million in the hole, why are you offering free rides to anyone? It may be "tradition", but ITTET maybe it's one of those traditions that needs to go.

  • I was one of the lucky ones to get the refund. But didnt expect it. When I got on the bus, I told the driver that I didnt have a penny. Her response "you know youre supposed to have a penny" I said that I didnt have one (I had heard in years past that really the ride is free). The driver gave me the impression that the bus would not move unless I came up with a penny. Since I didnt have one, I slapped my CTA card with disgust and moved to the back of the bus.

  • The "penny" ride on New Year's Eve IS "really" free, as the CTA (1) is forbidden by law to offer free rides (except, of course, where the law requires free rides) and (2) doesn't want to the expense and inconvenience of reprogramming its fareboxes and turnstiles to accept a new fare just for a few hours.

    Most bus drivers cover the coin slot on the fare box. I didn't ride the L this year, but I recall from years past that a usually-locked gate was propped open in each station during the penny-fare period.

    That said, I had a similar experience this year. I got on a Michigan Avenue bus (don't recall which route) and when I didn't pay the penny, the driver made a snide remark that I was being cheap. She didn't make me pay, though. My friends paid the penny and sided with the bus driver -- thanks a lot! -- not believing me about not "really" paying a penny until we transfered to another bus where the driver HAD taped over the coin slot. Hah!

  • Let's just say the legal fees when some one decides a class action law suit is in order would be far greater than $6,225.

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