CTA votes to increase bus, train fares for first time in 9 years

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It's been nine years since the Chicago Transit Authority last voted to increase fares for public transportation users. (WLS)

It's been nine years since the Chicago Transit Authority last voted to increase fares for public transportation users. The CTA did so on Wednesday as part of its 2018 budget.

"We want to maintain the service that our customers have come to rely on. The only way to do that was to ensure we had enough revenue to cover that service and unfortunately the state took away $33 million dollars of that revenue. We had to find a way to cover that," said CTA Spokesperson Brian Steele following the vote.

Starting January 7, the cost of a single fare bus ride on a Ventra card will go up from $2.00 to $2.25 and "L" and cash bus fares from $2.25 to $2.50. The cost of 30-day passes will increase from $100 to $105. All other fares and passes, including those for students, will remain the same. Free rides will remain free.

"I barely have enough to get back and forth to school," said CTA user Dajuan Jenkins. "I only eat when I get home because I'm trying to save. Truly there's no other means of transportation. It's unfair."

The increases come as part of an effort to fill a $33 million dollar budget hole, caused in large part by a drop in state funding. Ride share services such as Uber and Lyft, have also affected the CTA, which has seen a decrease in ridership in recent years. The Civic Federation, a fiscal watchdog group, opposes the budget, which, they say, in addition to the fare hikes, relies on unrealistic expectations and short-term borrowing to make ends meet.

"It's a dangerous path," said Civic Federation President Lawrence Msall. "We have seen other local governments, in particular the Chicago Public Schools. Once they start borrowing from operating, it doesn't get any easier to pay it back. It doesn't get any easier the next year to balance your budget."

The CTA's budget must still be approved by the Regional Transit Authority. Once that happens, the fare hikes will go into effect on January 7. And it's not just the CTA. Hit by the same cuts in state funding, Metra and PACE have already approved their own fare hikes for 2018.
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