Getting around town on public transit in 2009 will cost at least a quarter more per ride in 2009.
The Chicago Transit Board today approved a fare structure that will see riders paying $2.25 cash for a bus ride or $2 with a transit card, while train rides will cost $2.25.
The cost of a one-day pass will rise to $5.75 from $5, a three-day pass will rise to $14 from $12 and a seven-day pass will cost $23 from $20.
The increases, while expected, were slightly less than the CTA President Ron Huberman requested in his proposed 2009 budget.
“As a result of concerns raised by this board and the riding public” the CTA devised an “alternative fare proposal that would not have as severe an impact on the riding public,” says CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown.
The CTA’s budget for 2009 is $1.324 billion, up 9.5 percent from its 2008 budget of $1.209 billion. The CTA’s budget shortfall is pegged at $42.2 million, and both Huberman and board Chairwoman Carole Brown have said fare increases would plug the hole without forcing the agency to cut services.
Huberman during the meeting said he supports the slightly lower fare hikes, saying Brown took a "holistic approach" to solving the budget crisis.
The approved fare increase will raise $39.3 million. That money, as well as $3.6 million in savings reaped from a retooled supplemental retirement plan, raises the cash needed to balance the books in 2009, Brown says.
“I do not relish an increase, but we’re trying to be fiscally responsible,” Brown says.
The board opted to raise rates on the one-; three- and seven-day passes by 15 percent, instead of 20 percent as proposed by Huberman. The increases have been unpopular with riders, many of whom complain the hikes come at a time of economic downtown and high unemployment.
About a dozen members of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization held a protest rally in front of CTA headquarters before the meeting began, and one member, Neal Rysdahl, briefly interrupted the board meeting to decry the fare hikes before security guards removed him.
Other riders, such as Danny Rosa, 48, a self-employed handyman, took the increase in stride.
“Sure, I don’t like it, but you know everything is going up and they’ve got bills to pay, too,” Rosa said yesterday afternoon as he waited at the Clinton stop for a Green Line train to downtown. “It just that some people can’t afford [the increase], small at it is.”
The CTA board approved the hikes 6-1, with new member and former deputy governor Sheila Nix casting the lone dissenting vote. Nix says there were too many unknown future cost factors to justify an increase, and said a fare hike will decrease ridership.
“I believe if we don’t raise fares, the increase in ridership will offset” the budget shortfall, Nix says. “I know we’re facing tough times, but I feel like people who rely on the CTA are also facing tough times and that’s why I will vote against it.”
The CTA had threatened a 20-percent across-the-board fare hike to close the $42.2 million budget shortfall caused by higher-than-expected energy, fuel and material costs.
Agency officials say the budget does not divert cash needed for physical improvements to the system to pay for operations. It is estimated the CTA needs more than $6 billion in capital -- or physical -- improvements, but no new capital funding is slated to come to the agency until 2010.
Amy Lee is a Chicago-based journalist. She covers transit issues for the Daily News.