"Penny" rides are back for New Year's Eve on CTA

The CTA is continuing its tradition of offering rides for a “penny” from 10 p.m. Dec. 31 through 4 a.m. on Jan. 1 to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

The word “penny” is in quotes because for all intents and purposes the rides are free. But the CTA is not allowed to offer free rides, so it charges a “penny.” However, at rail stations there is no way to charge a penny because cash is not accepted. And in its press release, the CTA explicitly states:

“The CTA is pleased to provide this convenience to its customers but is reminding them to not use their magnetic strip farecards or Chicago Card/Chicago Card+ farecards during this time to avoid being charged the value of a regular full-fare. No refunds will be issued if a full-fare is deducted from a farecard during the penny ride period.”

So that means that the gates at stations probably will be open during that six-hour window. On buses, it is possible to pay with a penny, but presumably most bus drivers will wave riders through.

So have a Happy New Year and use the CTA, not your car.

Filed under: CTA in the news


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  • "But the CTA is not allowed to offer free rides.." Since when? There are innumerable situations (some caused by a person who'll be spending 12 years in prison) mandating it.

    The only mandate is that they meet the recovery level set by the RTA.

  • In reply to jack:

    Sorry Jack, but there's a specific state law requiring payment, the free ride amendatory veto & free Circuit Breaker rides not withstanding.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    You have a cite for that? I don't accept secondary sources.

  • In reply to jack:

    The Metropolitan Transit Act (70 ILCS3605/) has several sections that allow free rides for firemen, policemen, public health nurse & allows the CTA to make an agreement with the post office to allow letter carriers in uniform to ride free. It also allows letting schoolchildren & the disabled to ride at reduced or even free fares.
    (70 ILCS 3605/30) (from Ch. 111 2/3, par. 330)

    I'm guessing that it's been interpreted that this disallows free rides for all since it specifies exactly who can ride free..

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    So, a bit of ejusdum generis. Doesn't prove the point, though. By that reasoning, the Chicago city council, while given the authority to impose a real estate transfer tax for the benefit of the CTA didn't have the authority to condition it on free rides for people in military uniform, or maybe not if they boarded in Oak Lawn or Rosemont. But it did. See Chicago Municipal Code 3-33-160.

    I'm sure the Illinois State Police will be out there making sure that all the pennies are collected. ;-) Absent that, it isn't being interpreted in any binding or meaningful way. Pretty much the same as the rest of the MTA Act, as I have frequently observed.

    In any event, you didn't find an absolute prohibition. Kevin hasn't either. But at least you tried.

  • Don't count on being waved by. Bring your pennies. I've seen at least one bus driver attempt to turn people away who didn't have pennies. Other passengers wound up giving a few pennies for them, but you might not get that lucky.

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