CTA pass good start—but with pitfalls

November 21, 2011|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

CTA riders, don't get excited to tap that pass just yet.

The CTA board last week awarded a $454 million contract to Cubic Transportation Systems to devise a system that would allow CTA riders to use their credit and debit cards to pay their fares.

Though the system is not expected to be implemented until 2014, Going Public has ID'd a few potential drawbacks to the proposal, which is a swipe in the right direction.

>> Dollar back, ya'll: Cash would still be accepted on buses under the proposed system. CTA board chairman Terry Peterson, citing his previous work as chief of the Chicago Housing Authority, said this allowance is for Chicagoans without access to banking services such as credit or checking accounts.

But riders who pay with cash on buses would still have to pay the 25 extra cents per ride the CTA currently charges its cash customers. Perhaps that fare should be re-evaluated if the intent of allowing cash is to help riders in impoverished areas.

Paying cash fares does not help speed the bus-boarding process, which is supposed to be one of the perks of this proposed system.

>> One for all: Like the CTA itself, the proposed fare collection structure is an OK system with potential for much more. The system could move beyond transit and include other city services.

The CTA said its proposed fare system will likely be a model for Metra and Pace. Gov. Quinn signed a bill into law this year requiring a universal fare card for Metra, CTA and Pace by 2015.

The CTA should look beyond partnering just with transit agencies on this system. Imagine if riders could use one card to ride the CTA, check out library books and pay the parking meter. That would truly be a Chicago Card.

Commendation station

Bruce Meredith has been a grand attendant at the Grand Blue Line for the last few years, said CTA rider Sarah Rathbone, who wanted to wish Meredith well on his move to another station.

"He has become something of a legend among our friends, neighbors and co-workers who on occasion will walk an extra block or two just to get on or off the Blue Line at Grand and get a sincere 'good morning' from Bruce," Rathbone, 31, wrote to GP.

Here comes the gravy train

The CTA holiday train kicks off its annual run 3 p.m. Friday on the Orange Line. The train will travel the Green Line Friday and Saturday. Send your holiday train snaps to tswartz@tribune.com.

RIDER'S BLOCK

My pledge to ride every CTA bus line continues. I rode the No. 55N-55th/Narragansett last week and boiled my review down to a tweet.

@tracyswartz 17 min from Midway Airport to 63rd/Narragansett. Runs about every half hour so look to 55A and 63W as alternatives. Stops by public library.

134 routes down, 5 to go!

Next up: No. 52A-South-Kedzie.

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