Drive? Drive! Photo by Dan O’Neill.
I’m not going to try to make sense of the pending Chicago Transit Authority fare increases, why they’re necessary, or of Rahm’s insensitive remarks on Monday that he clarified yesterday. There are already great responses on these matters:
- CTA Tattler – Emanuel on CTA pass increase, “choosing to drive” and Why I support CTA’s increased price for weekly, monthly passes
- Gapers Block – “Let Them Drive Cars!”
- Chicago Magazine – The Math Behind the CTA Fare Increase
You will have to figure out for yourself if it’s still worth it to buy single or multi-day passes. Need a primer on what’s proposed to change? Check out the CTA’s FAQ (.pdf). The fare increases will be voted on by the CTA board on December 18, 2012, at 2:30 PM, and the increases would take effect January 14, 2013.
I’m going to try and inspire you to take action and give you some tools that may help lessen the impact on your household’s finances. Here are 12 ideas.
1. Illinois legislators control the CTA so you have to tell them how you feel about fare increases and transportation subsidy policies. They decide how much financial assistance transit agencies will get. Tell them which way you tend to vote. You can find their contact info on the Riders for Better Transit website.
2. There are pre-tax benefits available at supportive workplaces. Money is removed from your paycheck to purchase a cash transit card or a monthly pass before taxes are calculated. You can save hundreds of dollars per year. This applies to Metra and Pace riders, too. You cannot get this benefit individually: your employer most offer it. If they don’t, give your boss or HR manager this information. Learn more at LessTaxingCommute.com.
If you get pushback, educate your coworkers or contact Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Riders for Better Transit to see if they can help you reach out to company executives.
3. The mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois appoint four and three members to the CTA board, respectively. Direct your attention to those two.
4. The budget recommendations for the following budget year (2013) are created by CTA president Forrest Claypool and his staff and then presented to the appointed board members for their approval. If I kept better track of the board’s activity I could tell you if they’ve ever told the CTA president to revise the budget recommendations. You can speak to the board at two public meetings in December:
6 PM, Monday, December 10
567 W. Lake St. – 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60661
6 PM, Monday, December 17
Westinghouse College Prep
3223 W. Franklin Blvd. – Auditorium
Chicago, IL 60624
Submit your input in other mediums: Gregory P. Longhini, Assistant Secretary of the Board, Chicago Transit Authority, 567 W. Lake Street, Chicago, Illinois 60661. firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Aldermen, village trustees, and other elected officials of nearby municipalities don’t have influence over the CTA except to advise where bus stop shelters should go. But they can act as advocates for you, their residents, and for others, voters.
Is there a shining light in this messy situation we call transit funding in Chicago? Photo by Rebecca Sims.
6. There are discounts for certain passengers based on age (children, grade and high school students, and senior citizens), Medicare, disabilities, and military status. Apply for one if you haven’t already (these programs costs CTA a lot of money that the state doesn’t reimburse them for, any longer).
7. Pace has vanpool program and carpool matching website. Check them out. Van share means you either drive or ride in a van; passengers pay “a low monthly fare based on distance and number of participants”.
8. Stock up on passes. They expire in 1 year from date of purchase. Or start a secondhand market and sell the passes for half the increase amount (this might be illegal).
9. The price of the U-PASS will likely increase. Unfortunately I don’t know who is responsible for negotiating with the CTA its price (the price is different for each college and university).
The CTA is fixing buses, buying new trains, repairing slow zones and stations, cutting costs, and making deals with labor unions. It’s not always their fault CTA raises fares. Perhaps it can be done less dramatically and sooner than every 4 years.
10. Tell your representatives in Congress (you’ve got 3) that the pre-tax benefit (described in item 6) for transit users should be equal to the pre-tax benefit for people who park at work. The pre-tax benefit for people who park is up to $240 per month, but only $125 for people who ride transit! This covers the most expensive pass for CTA, but not for Metra riders, whose monthly pass costs approach $200. Metropolitan Planning Council has more details on the history of this disparity.
11. Get your workplace into MPC’s Commute Options program.
12. If you drive LESS, there’s something in it for you: sign up for the Drive Less, Live More challenge that rewards people who self-report sustainable commutes with monthly prize drawings.
What are you going to do about the CTA fare increases? Change your travel habits, contact an elected official, or drive?
See other Take Action posts.