CTA pass increases had greater impact on minority, low-income riders

A federally mandated analysis has verified something we all pretty much just assumed — that low-income and minority customers were the most impacted by the CTA’s recent increase in prices for passes.

A survey by the CTA found that minorities and poor people pay fares with cash or use one-day passes and seven-day passes at a higher rate than other CTA customers, according to the Tribune’s Getting Around column (subscription required).

Percentage-wise, the price for shorter term passes, such as a seven-day pass, increased more than the 30-day pass — 22 percent vs. 16 percent respectively. And the survey showed that 23 percent of low-income and 19 percent of minority riders buy seven-day passes, compared with 15 percent of CTA customers overall. Other results of the survey, from the Tribune column:

One-day passes are used by 11 percent of low-income CTA riders and 9 percent of minority riders, compared with 7 percent of riders overall, the results showed.

Conversely, low-income CTA customers account for 6 percent of 30-day pass purchases, compared with 12 percent for minority riders and 15 percent of overall customers, the review said.

Reduced-fare and free-rides passes are also used by minorities more than by all customers, according to the analysis.

“The analysis indicates that while the fare changes will affect minority and low-income populations, they will not cause a disparate impact on minority populations and disproportionate burden on low-income populations,” the review said.


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  • But one has to read the last paragraph of the quotation to determine what gobbledegook it was. You focused on that the lower income and minority riders were paying disproportionately more, yet the report (somewhat predictably) found no violation.

    And Mayor Emanuel said at the time that there was no fare increase, so theoretically the report was unnecessary. However, someone must have concluded that there was, despite what he said. Maybe lower income and minority people do not pay the $2.25 cash base fare.

    The article also noted that a review also found a disproportionate effect of the crowd reduction plan on riders of the Forest Park branch, even though those changes were sub rosa (not announced as part of the bus cuts). I'm sure that that was offset by the bus cuts having a disproportionate effect on the north side, especially Lincoln and Wilson, where I suppose that the protected minorities do not live (although some low income people do), but the article didn't mention that.

    In short, the only conclusion is "we snuck another under the feds' noses." Or is it "sneaked?"

  • I've always been amazed at the people who buy a 30 day magnetic strip pass or lots of 7 day passes at a time, when they could get a Chicago Card and make life easier. I've even mentioned it to people who lived in my building who take it to work every and can clearly afford it, yet don't for some reason.

    It seems like they're trying to get people to "trade up" to a longer pass. I'm not sure if this is intentional or unintentional though.

  • In reply to chris:

    I know there has been a lot of kvetching about the Ventra Card, but I'm personally sick to death of waiting to board buses and trains while riders with the d*mn magnetic dtrip cards fumble around trying to get them in the slot. Good riddance, and don't let the door hit you in the a** on the way out. We;come to the 21st century.

    Now, if they could just get the card reader to work within a 2 ft radius so I don't have to pull out my wallet and touch it to the sensor pad, we'd have a real winner.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    The problem then is that it probably would also set off your smart phone and every other RFID card in your wallet.

    Of course, given thefts of smart phones, would one really want to touch a smart phone to the pad?

  • In reply to jack:

    I don't know what you mean by "set off your smart phone". RFID technology is quite mature at this point. The card is programmed with a specif code, so no other device is going to be affected.

    Some of you guys are freakishly paranoid. Is there crime on the CTA? Of course. Would I want to whip out my smartphone while boarding a bus at 3:00 am at 63rd and Halstead? Probably not. Would I take out my phone while boarding a bus at Franklin and Chicago at 5 pm with 20 other riders in line with me? Sure, no problem. Heck, I have to take my wallet out of my pocket to get my Chicago Card Plus now, so it's no worse. In fact, if the reader worked from 2 feet away, I could leave my Ventra card, or smartphone, in my pocket.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    The Ventra system is supposed to work with smartphones that have near field capability and an app, such as Google Wallet, that acts as a credit card. Someone put a demonstration* on YouTube, and there is a link on chicagobus.org to that.

    As far as a particular code, it is supposed to be an open standards system, so I don't see how if you have both a Ventra and a Chase Blink card in your wallet, it wouldn't interrogate both and charge both accounts, unless the distance were restricted. Kevin Z also discussed this on chicagobus.org.

    And as far as paranoia, what about the reports that iPhones were still the desired target of theft on transit systems, despite the fact that they can be tracked by gps?

    *Of course, the transaction was rejected because the system isn't operational yet.

  • In reply to jack:

    I didn't say crime was non-existent, I said that the odds are low in high-traffic areas during rush hours. I assume you only use your phone when in your home or car, given that it could theoretically be stolen at any time, and any place? 'Didn't think so.

    With a NFC system, the card credentials are stored in a secure "vault" on the phone. The reader would access the information *after* the rider selected the appropriate card on the phone.

    Notice in the video that the Mastercard logo is visible? This is because the user selected that specific card from the Wallet app. Only the selected "card" is going to interact with the reader, so there's no way that 2 cards are going to be charged simultaneously, even though the "wallet" stores multiple "cards".

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Apparently you got confused between two physical cards with RFID chips and two apps on a phone.

  • In reply to jack:

    So are you trying to say that if I'm carrying two RFID-based cards in my wallet, the Ventra system would charge both cards? Obviously, one would have to set up the account with the CTA to specify the card to use, or the priority on multiple cards (if I elect the option of using the Ventra card and a different card).

    I'm not sure why I would want two cards registered with the CTA, but even so, it doesn't seem difficult to set up.

  • In reply to chris:

    The Chicago Card isn't going to make any difference in a couple of months, when people will either have to use Ventra cards (or pay the surcharge on Ventra tickets) or have to associate a transit account on some other RFID card.

    The mag strip passes aren't going to be available, and those who loaded up on 7 day ones might get stuck.

    As far as the "trade up," I think that is what the article implied, and that lower income passengers can't afford to do so, but that isn't a problem to the people doing the survey.

  • SpinyNorman:

    Since we ran out of reply buttons:

    You are still missing the concept that this is an open standards system.

    Theoretically, under the Ventra system, I don't need a Ventra card at all. I can use any RFID card, and be charged in the same manner as if one uses a mag strip fare card now ($2.00 for the first bus ride, 25 cents for the first transfer and free for the second). Or someone could use their phone with a payment app in the same manner. Someone does not have to register their Google Wallet or Chase Blink card with the CTA (just like you don't have to register them to tap them at McDonald's).

    There are only two reasons to register with CTA:
    1. If you have a Ventra card and want the $5.00 "deposit" credited back.

    2. If you want your CTA pass put on some other RFID bank card instead of having a separate Ventra card.

  • If the idea is to get cash for a cash strapped organization why muck up a good thing like the $5.75 one day pass?

  • In reply to Craig Jackson:

    Because CTA thinks it can get $10.00.

    Unlike Metra saying that eliminating the 1 ride discount on 10 ride tickets isn't working, CTA is not going to tell you if this "fare hike" killed the 1 day pass. CTA is probably indifferent to whether it increases revenue or kills the pass, given that, for instance, it was only marketed in locations where tourists were likely to buy it.

    That also brought up the question on chicagobus.org that since, for instance, the price hikes on the Ventra paper ticket (assumes a $2.25 L boarding fee, $.25 transfer and $.50 manufacturing fee) and 1 day pass are supposedly directed to tourists, whether there will be enough publicity about the open fare standard at those stations that the tourists will be notified that all these fees can be avoided just by using open media payment methods.

  • In reply to Craig Jackson:

    BTW, the only instance in which I am aware that CTA offered a deal in return for quick cash is when it sold some passes in bulk to GroupOn to resell.

  • The attempted phone theft I witnessed was in a crowded Brown Line train between 6 and 6:30 on a weekday night at the Sedgwick station. Not that it proves anything except crime happens on the CTA, even in Old Town during rush hour.

    Also I have a friend who still uses the cardboard with the magnetic stripes because she dislikes change. I would guess she spends more than a 30 day pass costs yet she won't do that either. She'd still be using tokens if they were still around. There are just some people who are like that.

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