Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Been thinking about fares lately

Since I've started working part of my costs include transportation. I don't have to worry about gas a lot since I have no car and most of my transportation costs include taking public transit.

For the past two or so years, CTA has been quite hard-up on cash. They've had to raise fares on at least two occasions. Something I'm unhappy about because now the price to ride CTA has only risen and takes more of my money than it once used to.

Since I've been working for almost a month now, my thoughts have turned to what is the best way to save money on my trip on public transit here. With that in mind I found this article I had originally posted last year at The Sixth Ward about how CTA riders have saved money purchasing monthly passes.

To start, I have two options: a 7-day pass or a 30-day pass. Well the 30-day is a monthly pass essentially and the 7-day is essentially a weekly pass.

As a matter of fact since CTA has gone to fard-card technology in order to collect fares instead of using tokens or having customer assistants at rail stations collect fares, the passes weren't merely magnetic cards as they are now. In fact my mother used to be a regular transit rider when she worked downtown and would often hand me her used up monthly passes. Sadly I don't have any of them as I seem to not be smart enough to put them up somewhere or to keep them out of my parents way so that they won't get thrown out. :(

Anyway, the more attractive option is the one that costs more the montly pass that costs $86. As opposed to the weekly pass that costs only $23. A few years ago those passes would have only cost less at $75 and $20 respectively. That was before CTA raised fares in the last few years.

For as long as I started taking the L downtown to either get to school or to work the fare was largely flat at $1.50 for riding the L and bus with a 30¢ transfer. By 2006 the fare had risen to $1.75 on buses and $2.00 on the L with a 25¢ transfer. These days it costs $2.00 to ride a bus and $2.25 to ride the L with again a 25¢ transfer. With current fare levels in mind, I've learned that it can only add up!

At least with a pass, I wouldn't have to continually be vigilant about how much money there might be on my fare-card. Although one may want to be vigilant on whether or not they're getting their money's worth from a pass. Knowing me it wouldn't bother me if I skipped a few days or a ride on a pass that cost me a significant amount of money.

In October of last year when the CTA rumbled about raising fares thanks to their financial situation, I worked out the exact value of riding the L using a weekly pass.Thankfully there was a freeze on fare hikes put in place in exchange for any financial help from the State of Illinois.

Fares would've been hiked to $3.00/ride on the L and the price of a weekly pass would've been $30. I used those to numbers to figure how I would make out with a weekly pass under the new fare structure. The premise was that I would only be riding back and forth between my neighborhood and downtown for say 7 days straight.

So round trip on the L would be $6.00/day with no transfers at all. Essentially after five days I would have used up the cost of the pass right there. So I actually pay for more rides than the actual cost of the pass. On a $30 pass I can actually use up $42 worth of rides. Assuming that all I do is round trip on the L back and forth between home and downtown. Sounds like a good deal when I can ride a bus and rack up transfers and all that!

Well if I do choose to use a pass to ride CTA, it's possible that I won't take up time having to recharge my fare media. Hopefully I will save some money on transit by spending money in advance and not pay-per-ride. My hope is that it will all be worth it in the long run!

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