Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Public transit: fare increase vs. service cuts

How would the mayor know?

When was the last time Hizzonerdamare Richard M. Daley took public transit to work?

It's been more than 20 years. He's had taxpayer-funded 24-hour limo service for as long as he's been mayor, and he was elected in 1989.

Once again, the mayor demonstrates how little he knows about real life in the city he runs. Last week, as the Chicago Transit Authority (cta) prepared to cut service frequency on most of its bus routes and all rail lines (except in Skokie), Mayor Daley said service cuts are preferable to fare increases.

For whom?

For people like the mayor who don't ride cta, I guess.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there's a sense at cta headquarters that now that we can find out via text message when the next bus is coming, we won't mind waiting. A longer wait is still inconvenient, especially when a trip requires more than one ride. And the rush-hour overcrowding on the busses with heaviest passenger demand and all trains will only get worse.

Three dollars a ride would be a lot to take, and there's so much wasteful spending in cta management that must be cut. (A ride is currently $2 or $2.25.) But the alternative, which we riders will face next week (beginning Feb. 7), is going to be worse. Every time cta cuts service, a percentage of its faithful ridership decide it's not dependable and seek other options. It does itself nor its passengers any favors by cutting service.

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