Mayor Rahm Emanuel had a message Monday for CTA riders upset about upcoming fare hikes: they’re not really fare increases, public transit remains a bargain and commuters can “make that choice” about whether to drive or take buses and trains.
“Fares stayed the same. Basic fares stayed the same, which you cannot say about gas prices,” said Emanuel in his first public comments since the CTA announced a 2013 budget proposal last week.
While it’s true the standard payment for a single CTA trip will remain $2.25, the mayor’s transit agency plans a 16 percent increase to the cost of a 30-day pass and higher jumps for one-day, three-day and seven-day passes. About 55 percent of CTA commuters use some kind of pass.
The mayor suggested commuters who don't like the new fare structure are free to get behind the wheel, setting aside the fact many Chicagoans who rely on the CTA to get to and from work don't have cars.
“Now you, as a commuter, will pick. You can either drive to work or you can take public transportation, and the standard fare will stay the same,” Emanuel said.
Under the budget proposal CTA President Forrest Claypool unveiled, the 30-day card will go up 16 percent from $86 to $100. Seven-day passes will rise 22 percent, to $28 from $23.
Three-day passes will increase 43 percent, to $20 from $14. And one-day passes will increase to $10 from $5.75.
“Public transportation is different from driving to work. You will make that choice,” Emanuel said when asked about the hike to the 30-day pass that in particular will hit working Chicagoans who in many cases can least afford it.
The fare increases are projected to generate about $56 million a year. Claypool announced them along with $60 million in labor savings, which he said would help erase a projected $165 million budget deficit next year.
Emanuel talked about the CTA increases as he heralded the sewer, water main and street paving work completed this year through his signature infrastructure plan, which was funded in part by water and sewer fee increases the mayor pushed through last year.
This year, the Water Department has installed 70 miles of new water mains and 17 miles of sewer mains and relined 47 miles of sewer mains, Emanuel said at a news conference in the McKinley Park neighborhood. The Water Department also restored and resurfaced more than 45 miles worth of arterial and residential streets.
Before the water and sewer rate increases, the city averaged 30 miles of water main replacement, 8.7 miles of sewer replacement and 32 miles of sewer lining during the past five years, officials said.
To help pay for that work, water rates increased by 25 percent this year, to $2.51 per 1,000 gallons. Next year, they will rise another 15 percent, to $2.89 per 1,000 gallons.
The average bill for a single-family home without a meter went up from $450 last year to $572 this year, according to city estimates. Continued annual increases will raise it to about $920 in 2015.
Emanuel said residents will see the investment through better water service and far fewer water main breaks.
“We're actually getting what used to be, as you remember, emergency work done,” Emanuel said as union leaders looked on. “Basements would be flooded, people would lose family albums, all types of great family memorabilia.”
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