CTA could hike its fares

Ali Elkin

Chicago’s public transportation system may soon become one of the most expensive in the nation.

If Chicago Transit Authority’s proposed 2010 budget is approved, train fares will spike from $2.25 to $3.00. Bus fares will also increase to $2.50. These fare hikes, along with service cuts, are meant to remedy CTA’s $300 million budget shortfall and prevent potential layoffs.

According to the Web site for the Office of Undergraduate Admission, about 2,500 of Northwestern’s undergraduates live off-campus or commute from home. Several commuting students said the CTA is already an unpopular choice among students who live farther from campus.

“It was killing me when I rode the El,” said Sam Wilson, a Weinberg senior. Wilson said the CTA’s lack of reliability and slow speeds pushed him to start driving to campus before he eventually moved to Evanston.

“It probably says a lot that not a lot of commuters use CTA,” he said.Communication sophomore Meggie Gallina said she travels to Chicago via CTA about once a month, whether to visit family in the city or for weekend sightseeing.

“It would probably annoy me and I’d probably grumble about it, but it wouldn’t change (how often I go into the city),” she said.

Gallina added that she also takes the CTA to Union station to go home to Carmel, Ind. for breaks.

Even if the cost were built into her tuition, Gallina said she would feel better about the cost of taking public transportation if Northwestern provided a U-Pass, a pre-paid, unlimited ticket CTA offers for students.

“Every other school in Chicago has them,” she said. “It might just be a mind-set change, but I wouldn’t feel as bad about paying for the train”

In the past, students have voted against the added cost of the tickets.

Wilson said were he still taking the CTA to school, this fare hike would have been enough incentive to find an alternate route.

Alternate routes are fewer and farther between for many who depend on CTA to get to work, said Patricia Hambrick, a Chicago resident.

“There are lot of people who can’t afford it, like me for one,” she said. “I only make $600 a month, and that goes to my rent.”

As she waited for the bus on North Broadway Street, Hambrick said she uses public transportation every day to get to work and to doctors’ appointments. She said the proposed increase would force her to walk, jeopardizing her health.

“I’m 67 years old,” she said. “I can’t afford it. I’ve got arthritis in my feet, and with having a heart condition…” Hambrick trailed off as her bus approached.

Despite the CTA’s financial vulnerability, the proposed budget keeps in place a “free rides” program for qualifying senior citizens and other residents.

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