Fares to rise on Skyway, CTA and Metra in 2013
BY ROSALIND ROSSI and TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporters December 23, 2012 6:52PM
Drivers pay the $2 toll at the westbound toll plaza of the Chicago Skyway in November 2004. The Skyway toll increases to $4 from $3.50 on Jan. 1, 2013. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 25, 2013 6:14AM
The cost of traveling into Chicago will jump next year — be it by bus, rail or car.
As of Jan. 1, the privately run Chicago Skyway will raise the toll for cars nearly 15 percent: to $4 from $3.50.
Two weeks later, the Chicago Transit Authority will increase rates on passes used by more than half its bus and rail riders. Seniors, some travelers from O’Hare, and Soldier Field Express bus riders also will see fare jumps.
And on Feb. 1, Metra is increasing the price of its 10-ride ticket — for the second year in a row.
That bump comes exactly a year after the biggest fare hike in the commuter rail agency’s history. Riders on average had to shelve out 25 percent more to ride trains beginning Feb. 1 this year.
Rachel Goodstein, a 60-year-old North Sider and former 43rd Ward aldermanic candidate, uses the CTA and, occasionally, the Chicago Skyway. She calls the travel increases “frustrating.’’
The 30-day senior “reduced pass,” on the CTA for example, will shoot up to $50 from $35, a 43 percent increase.
“A little here, a little there. Pretty soon you’re talking about real money,” said Goodstein, riffing on a well-known quote from the late U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois.
Former Chicagoan Kenneth Milton, 66, is none too pleased about the jump in tolls to drive the less than eight-mile Chicago Skyway connection to Indiana. Tolls are set by the Skyway Concessions Company, which inked a 99-year lease with the city in 2005 in exchange for paying the city $1.83 billion upfront.
Now an Indiana resident, Milton drives his wife to work in the city each weekday morning, drives home and then repeats the process every afternoon to pick her up. The increase from $4 will cost him an extra $2 a day.
“Now it’s going to cost $4 dollars” one way,’’ Milton said. “For what? I know they might be allowed to do it. But it’s just a ridiculous rate.’’
As of January 2011 — after Skyway rates jumped to $3.50 from $3 — the Chicago Skyway had the highest toll per mile of any interstate toll system tracked by the Federal Highway Administration.
The FHA listed the Skyway rate at that time as 46 cents a mile for the average passenger vehicle. The jump to $4 on Jan. 1, 2013, based on FHA data, will put the cost per mile at close to 52 cents.
“This is getting out of hand,” Milton said. “Nobody is getting a 14.7 percent raise nowadays.”
But that’s the percentage Skyway tolls will rise.
As of Feb. 1, suburbanites and others hopping on Metra trains into the city will no longer be able to purchase 10 rides for the price of nine. This comes only a year after Metra stopped offering 10 rides for the price of eight.
The 2012 Metra fare increase was “huge” so “to do this on top of that is not good,” Beverly Lietzau, who takes the Metra from Evanston to the city, said after the increase was proposed.
Metra officials said the fare increase will generate $8.3 million and help the agency maintain its equipment.
CTA officials contend commuters will see improvements for their extra fare dollars. That includes station upgrades, the biggest track-renewal project in nearly two decades — on the Red Line — and a modernized fare payment system.
CTA and Metra officials also argue that the increases put the agencies on par with peers nationally.
Steve Schlickman, executive director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said good transit and tollway operators try to calculate the tipping point at which a fare increase will turn off too many users.
“They understand where their price points are,” Schlickman said. “The approaches they are taking are ones that minimize ridership loss and maximize revenue.”
Price increases may infuriate some riders, but CTA Chicago Cards and other automated payment methods make fare increases “less visible” to users, Schlickman said.
“That’s going to affect the psychology of the rider, to the benefit of the transit authority, so it will no longer cause as big a decrease in ridership as it would have in the past,” Schlickman said.