Memories of the Supertransfer and CTA monthly pass price cut - with a catch

As I was lunching today with my friend Victoria, she told me about the first freelance piece she wrote as a journalist – an op-ed about the CTA, her riding habits and a proposed fare cut that sounded like it was really just a stealth fare increase.

She wrote “CTA’s new pass proposal tests the loyalty of a faithful rider” in 1992. It’s a fun story, and an opportunity for CTA “old-timers” to reminisce about Supertransfers and $5 student passes.

The Supertransfer was sold on Sundays only, and it allowed a rider all day rides for $1.75. Ah, those were the days.

Victoria also wrote about a proposal to cut the price for a monthly pass, which actually would have been a fare increase for frequent riders:

Under the CTA’s latest proposal, monthly passes would be reduced from $60 to $40, and weekly passes from $15 to $10. But riders would pay 25 cents each time they used the pass; and passes, now good for an unlimited amount of rides, would expire after 80 rides. Transfers, which now cost 30 cents for two hours, would be eliminated and replaced by a $1.65 ticket good for three rides in a three-hour period.

This is not a preventive measure against pass- and transfer-sharing. It is a fare increase. Who does the CTA think it is trying to kid? If the CTA really wants to prevent sharing, make the pass a photo ID. If they do it in London, then we can do it in Chicago.

Victoria waxed nostalgic in her Tribune op-ed piece about riding the CTA as a teenager:

I started out on the 96 Lunt bus about 15 years ago, taking it to swim team practice at the YMCA, classes at the Jewish Community Center, music lessons, antique stores on Clark and shopping in the Loop. Like many kids in my neighborhood, I didn’t have access to a chauffeur, and I sometimes thought the bus drivers knew me better than my parents. They were certainly more¬†aware of where I was going.

And I love her story about swapping transfers with her brother:

One time, my brother and I got on the bus, but he had lost his transfer. I gave the bus driver my transfer, asked for it back and headed for the back of the bus. My brother told the driver that I had his transfer and he needed to get it. He took my original transfer and convinced the driver that there were actually two different transfers between us. I don`t think the bus driver really bought it. He was probably just sick of listening to us.

What fun stories do you have about enjoying your misspent youth on the CTA?
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  • I remember the Supertransfer, but thought it was $1. Maybe it wasn't, but I sort of remember that it wasn't such a good deal, unless one intended to stay on the bus system all day.

    I certainly don't get the "pay to use the pass" proposal, but as ESEMAJ01 indicates, maybe CTA was always in the business of conning the fare payer.

    However, transfers were always a source of messing around, especially when the number of rides were unlimited so long as you didn't backtrack and did cross the squares on the map in the allotted time. I remember that after the Evanston CTA buses were rerouted into Howard, there was some sort of fare advantage to ride the bus to Howard rather than board the L in Evanston. I don't remember the advantage, but I did once use it, except I got to the destination late.

    I also had the urge, when someone was begging for bus fare at an L station to just give him the transfer, because I knew he really didn't want bus fare. However, something always overcame that urge.

  • I used to hand still-good transfers to random people at train stations.

  • I remember another transfer game. Around 1976, when the RTA was implementing a universal fare system (unbelievable today), the rule was that you could present a CTA transfer to a suburban bus driver, who would keep it but issue an RTA transfer. Thus, for instance, you could take a CTA bus to an L station, ride the L to Linden, exchange transfers at Linden, take a Wilmette bus to Old Orchard, and then transfer to a Nortran bus to get back into Chicago. I suppose that at that point, one could exchange the RTA transfer for a CTA one, bud didn't. Maybe a fare difference would have been owed.

  • A West Rogers Parker myself, I was struck by the second paragraph of Victoria's reminiscences. Just try to imagine the Lunt 96 bus running enough to be a practical way for a teenager to get around. The CTA certainly took care of that one.

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