CTA passes to be sold on Groupon

June 13, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The agency announced Wednesday that riders will soon be able to buy discounted three-day passes through Chicago-based Groupon -- the first partnership of its kind between the online discounter and a big-city transit agency.

The three-day is perhaps a forgotten pass that CTA officials say, by the end of June, will be available through Groupon for $9, a savings of over 35 percent.

"We think it is a very creative deal to combine two well-known Chicago brands and try to creatively grow ridership on the CTA by reaching out to tourists and other people who may be infrequent riders," said CTA President Forrest Claypool.

CTA says Groupon assumes the risk by buying 250,000 three-day passes. The transit authority gets nearly $2 million upfront.

In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Groupon's potential for attracting new CTA customers "an innovative example of the government and business community working together to benefit the entire city."

Claypool says, with Groupon's huge customer base, he is not concerned that selling cheap three-day passes will reduce CTA single-day or monthly pass sales.

"They have 36 million subscribers," Claypool said. "They are promoting all over the country. We have summer fests like Lollapalooza, the Air and Water Show, where a lot of people want to come in from the suburbs from throughout the country and want to know, 'How do I get around Chicago?' "

But, at Wednesday morning's monthly CTA board meeting, some activists who are worried about increased commuting times due to the upcoming five-month Red Line improvement project said they think the Groupon-CTA partnership is a sideshow.

Phyllis E. Palmer, representing the Developing Communities Project, said the CTA's priorities are not in line with its riders. "They are not at all in line with us," Palmber said. "We are like bi-polar opposites."

The CTA also announced Wednesday that the suburban Pace bus system will piggyback on its contract with a company to install an open fare system scheduled to start next summer. It will allow riders to use credit, debit or bank cards to pay for rides on both services at the same time.

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