» Class-action suit claims regional transit dollars unfairly support Metra commuter rail travel over CTA’s local service.
Two Chicago commuters have sued the State of Illinois in federal court, claiming that regional funding has systematically under-funded inner-city bus and L train service for the benefit of suburban train lines, therefore denying equal transportation access to the region’s minority populations and violating federal and state law. The suit raises questions of metropolitan area equity and distribution of funding between suburban and urban populations.
The premise of the riders’ complaint is clear: the Chicago Transit Authority’s bus and train services, operating mostly within the City of Chicago, serve something close to 80% of the region’s transit users, but the Metra commuter rail system, reaching far out into the suburbs, receives almost 30% of overall operating funds distributed by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which controls overall spending in the Chicago region. This is unfair and in violation of civil rights laws, they argue, since the areas served by Metra are predominantly white whereas those in CTA’s operating zone are mostly inhabited by minorities. U.S. House member Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) has come out in support of the suit.
Pace, a suburban bus line, receives about 15% of RTA’s operating funds and serves about 7% of customers, but it is not accused of being overfunded by the plaintiffs in this suit. The RTA does not keep statistics on the racial or ethnicity of its ridership, but it seems likely that Metra’s users are far more white than those of the CTA, since suburban Chicago is mostly white whereas the city itself is only about 31% non-hispanic white. The agency has no comments on the suit.
It is clear that CTA is underfunded, as declining sales tax revenues will force it to lay off some 1,000 employees and reduce bus service by 18% in the coming year unless unions are willing to accept lower compensation. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has said that there is “an attitude toward the CTA” that has resulted in lower-than-necessary funding. Yet whether those financial problems are related to a policy that “grossly and disparately favored white mass-transit riders… by over-funding Metra” is another question.
Per passenger, it is quite clear that Metra receives more operating funding than the CTA. In 2008, the CTA provided rides to some 1.6 million daily users, compared to only 320,000 at Metra. But the first agency only had twice the overall annual expenses of the latter ($1.6 billion versus $815 million).
But when considered in terms of mileage, the discrepancy is far less clear. Metra’s average rider trip is 22.6 miles long; the Chicago L’s most-used service, the Red Line, is only 23.4 miles long, with most users traveling far less than the whole route. In other words, commuter rail users are moving larger distances than their local bus and L counterparts, meaning that Metra’s per-passenger mile costs are probably lower than those of CTA.
Meanwhile, Metra rider fares cover about the same operations costs — around 31% — as those of CTA, at 30%, meaning that RTA is subsidizing the two services relatively similarly.
Finally, only 30% of sales tax revenues, which provide the primary source of local income for the RTA, come from the City of Chicago, with 70% coming from outlying areas. In other words, from the perspective of the regional population, far more money is being redistributed from the suburbs towards the inner-city, not vice verse.
From these perspectives, CTA doesn’t appear to be dramatically underfunded compared to Metra, and the case that there is a racial component to the decision-making that led to the lower per-passenger spending on CTA is on shaky ground. The plaintiffs in this suit have a lot more to prove before they can claim to have been systematically disenfranchised by RTA policy.
Even so, you never know. The Los Angeles Bus Riders Union successfully sued Metro, resulting in a 1996 decision that required a huge expansion of bus service at the expense of increased capital spending on rail projects, because the areas to be served by rail had a higher percentage of white inhabitants than those with bus operations. Chicago could see a similar a similar ruling in its case and be required to transfer operations dollars from Metra to the CTA.
It could also be argued that per-passenger spending is more important than per-passenger mile spending, since the former encourages urban lifestyles, which require shorter commutes than the longer distances that have to be traveled by commuter rail riders. But a preference for inner-city rail and bus over region-wide commuter operations is more a reflection of metropolitan planning priorities than a tool for racial discrimination. (Though, admittedly, one could contend that those priorities are in essence government-enforced mechanisms to structure race-based differences in spending.)
There are ways to compromise, however. Chicago would benefit from a merger between its Metra, CTA, and Pace divisions, allowing commuters to transfer between lines without paying separate fares. RTA could make an effort to convert some of its Metra commuter lines into rapid transit corridors with better, more frequent service to the inner-city neighborhoods through which they pass on the way to the suburbs. Doing so would leverage existing rail resources at a relatively inexpensive cost, prevent a fight between suburban and city officials, and eliminate feelings of racism.
Images above: Ridership and funding statistics, from RTA
66 replies on “Does Chicago Transit Funding Favor Whites?”
I’ve skimmed the PDF of the suit (you can find it online), and it seems like one of the big problems it faces is alleging overt racial discrimination, as opposed to inadvertent, unequal service coinciding with racial housing patterns. So, in other words, it’s obvious that the poor, largely African-American neighborhoods of Chicago on the Southside are grossly underserved (as an aside, I’ve been living here for the past month, and the southside really is hard to get to by public transit), but what’s unclear, and perhaps unprovable, is if the CTA/RTA and other officials are consciously neglecting these areas.
Furthermore, I think the issue is deeper than a monetary cost benefit analysis can illuminate–i,e, per passenger spending spending vs. per passenger spending per mile of service misses the underlying issue of equity in coverage. To dig even deeper, I think the reality of the inequality here has to do with equity in coverage of *transit dependents*. Metra users are car owners, or have the ability to own cars. Yes, Metra ridership helps encourage urban living, sustainability, and all of that….but I think part of the problem is that the RTA is funding the privileged at the expense of those most in need of public transit–the carless, the poor, the disabled, etc.
Look, the suit is going to get thrown out. It rests on seriously shaky grounds by virtue of its claims. But it does point to a larger issue of coverage inequality.
While I think the suit itself is, at best, dubious, the question of transit inequality (Chicago is a very good example of this, with the lack of L lines in much of the South Side) but there are others) is really a chicken-or-egg issue:
Are poor areas poor because they are underserved by transit, or are they underserved by transit because they’re poor?
I’d say both, though I think racism has very little to do with it in most instances. Clearly, better-served areas (at least in big cities, suburbs are a different beast) are more desirable and will probably be wealthier. However, the very fact that the poor settle in underserved areas means they will probably continue to be underserved because the poor have less of a voice in the political process – they cannot afford to organize campaigns, or donate, they’re less likely to vote.
This debate, particularly Vin’s comment, is interesting because I just read one of Harvard economist Ed Glaeser’s articles unimaginatively titled “Why do the poor live in cities?” Looking at intra-metro variation, he claims that the poor cluster in cities (relative to suburbs) because of better transportation access. Basically, he claims that the poor make the rational decision to sort themselves where they have the best access to transportation. I think looking at city vs. suburb as opposed to intra-urban (i.e. between neighborhood) variation is a real problem with this study that the CTA lawsuit brings to light.
I also just read another classic piece in transport planning by Thomas Sanchez arguing for the employment benefit of transit–that those with access to public transit had better employment outcomes relative to those without. This seems to support the “are they poor because they lack access” argument. Still, underserved communities are constantly fighting for better access, the Fairmount/Indigo Coalition being one example in Boston, which supports the “they are underserved because they are poor” argument.
So, I guess what I mean to say here is that the relationship between poverty and transit access isn’t fully understood. The causes may be a bit of a chicken & egg situation, but our policy moving forward is a bit more straightforward, if we follow a pro-urban, sustainable, equity in coverage framework.
I disagree that the south side of Chicago has poor transit access, especially since the Orange Line opened. In fact, if you put up a a transit map of Chicago on a wall it seems fairly well geographically distributed – the south side having the Pink Line on Cermak, the Red Line to 95th, the Orange Line to Midway, and the Green Line to 63rd. In addition, ironically, a larger part of the south side is served by Metra lines than the north side. In fact, the large number of commuter rail stations in inner city areas I think is very unusual.
“Access” is more than geography of rail lines. Just try getting to Hyde Park from the loop–it’s a pain because the 55 runs irregularly and infrequently. The difference is stark if we compare a ride from, say, Lakeview to the Loop, which is about equidistant in miles.
The question is not only if you have a rail stop close to you, but additionally how regular service is and how efficiently it can take people to areas of employment, social services, etc.
Englewood and other southside neighborhoods’ relative isolation compared to Wrigelyville, Lincoln Park, etc is pretty intuitive if you travel around the city at all.
First, the suburban = white assumption is archaic, inaccurate and thus a tad offensive. Second, is commuter rail not more expensive to operate than city transit in every metro? In the Chicago metro do suburbanites not outnumber city residents 3 to 1? Are city dwellers subsidizing suburban transit?
While it is true that suburbs are increasingly diverse, saying that they’re more white than the city (in the case of Chicago specifically) is not inaccurate. Take Cook County, which includes the City of Chicago. The county as a whole has 5.28 million people, and is 45% non-hispanic white. Chicago has 2.73 million people, and is 32% non-hispanic white. This makes the non-Chicago parts of Cook County 2.55 million in population and 60% white. In other words, there is a strong difference in demographics between Chicago and even the most immediate suburbs, with a far higher white percentage outside of the city (and it gets more extreme the further you go out).
In answer to your other questions, yes, in general, commuter rail is more expensive virtually everywhere — so the questions raised in this post apply to most major metro areas.
Suburbanites do outnumber city residents — but they’re far less likely to be transit-needy, as discussed by some of the previous commenters.
The question of whether city dwellers subsidize suburban transit is up for debate — as I showed above, the city contributes only 30% of sales tax revenues for the system, even though CTA gets 60% of revenues. On the other hand, the central city has to provide the core facilities for the region and doesn’t take home much of the property tax paid by many people who work downtown, since they live in the suburbs. And the city has the huge burden of housing the majority of the region’s poorer inhabitants.
Metra Electric trains serve the south/southeast sides of the city. While looking at a CTA map, it may appear that the south side is drastically underserved, looking at a combined map of CTA L and Metra shows substantially more service. Does this mean that the south side is NOT underserved? Absolutely not. But one can make that argument for the north sides that are not conveniently located for transit. Or even the suburbs. Not all suburbs in Chicago are wealthy and white. There are many suburbs that have substantial minority populations and also have transit access. Yes, the CTA is underfunded. So is Metra. So is Pace. It is not a good solution to rob Metra of funding it desperately needs to provide funding for the CTA that it desperately needs. We should be looking at the overall funding situation for ALL of Chicago’s transit agencies.
What’s needed is a “passenger trips” method of calculating usage. Passenger-miles always overstate the importance of suburban rail because of the large distances involved. Why should one passenger’s 40 mile trip be as important as 40 passengers’ one mile trips? Similarly, passenger boardings inflates the importance of short lines where passengers must transfer to another mode of transit.
Also flawed is with the idea that we should value passenger trips that are pulled from car trips higher than passenger trips transferred from busses or other forms of mass transit. Simply because the bus passenger has already made the decision to take public transit, doesn’t make them any less deserving of faster, more reliable options.
The focus needs to be on getting the most people where they need to go for the least money. Transit funding that encourages people to live closer to their destinations is something that should be encouraged, not discouraged.
While I find it unfortunate that race is being used to further this argument, I agree that the systems should be built based on ridership, not politics.
Can you post a copy of the complaint on the website?
here’s the lawsuit: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/21402794/1%206%2010%20Munguia%20v%20IDOT
Thanks — way too long for me to read in detail and I don’t know about the Illinois law claim (can there really be a disparate impact for transit funding under Illinois law ?– that’d be great, but quite different from federal law) but the Equal Protection and 1983 claims strike me as really, really tough. Class certification would be pretty hard too.
But who knows, the complaint looks very well done; counsel probably knows what its doing (but perhaps what its doing is trying to draw attention to the issue rather than win in court?)
Passenger-miles don’t vote. Passengers do.
This lawsuit would remove Metra subsidies from majority-minority suburbs in the south and the near west in order to remove them from the other suburbs.
Can’t the CTA charge more than $2.25 for train rides to and from O’Hare, Rosemont, and Midway?
Yonah analyses by ridership and by mileage, but you could also analyse by population. Are the non-CTA areas getting more than their per-capita share of total service costs? (Yes, you can argue about how to assign commuter rail between them, but I’d argue for assigning it all to the suburbs since that’s where its purpose lies.)
I’m not advocating the population-based analysis, only pointing out that existing ridership isn’t the only valid metric.
“What’s needed is a “passenger trips” method of calculating usage. Passenger-miles always overstate the importance of suburban rail because of the large distances involved. Why should one passenger’s 40 mile trip be as important as 40 passengers’ one mile trips?” – @andy
However we may value these things today, how they were valued in the past is shown by what was built and when it was built. We shouldn’t measure past decisions only by today’s values.
“We shouldn’t measure past decisions only by today’s values.”
But aren’t we discussing where the money should go not where it went? The suit is arguing that commuter lines are currently being funded at a disproportional rate.
“What’s needed is a “passenger trips” method of calculating usage. Passenger-miles always overstate the importance of suburban rail because of the large distances involved. Why should one passenger’s 40 mile trip be as important as 40 passengers’ one mile trips?”
Because the value of trips generally increases with their length. People wouldn’t make longer trips if they got the same benefit from shorter ones. Therefore, longer trips are more valuable. You wouldn’t pay $500 to travel across the country if you could get the same benefit by paying $5 to travel a few miles.
“Because the value of trips generally increases with their length. People wouldn’t make longer trips if they got the same benefit from shorter ones. Therefore, longer trips are more valuable.”
For an individual person or a neighbourhood, the value of a trip made likely does increase with length. But the claim breaks down when you compare, say, urban with suburban areas — the latter has much higher trip lengths without higher utility. It’s certainly a doubtful conclusion that person A gets a higher value from their trips than person B just because person A has longer trips on average. And everyone else is likely to get a worse deal from A’s longer trips due to the externalities and infrastructure and servicing costs.
This is not an argument for letting passenger-km vote. It’s an argument that passenger-km are a better proxy for revenue than passengers. If that’s what you’re worried about, then look at revenue only and ignore passenger numbers.
Even then, the value of trips is proportional to length only for intercity purposes. For commuting purposes, the value of a person who’s chosen to live 30 kilometers outside the city is no higher than the value of a person who lives in the city. That’s why intercity railroads sometimes report passenger-km as a headline statistic, but transit agencies, even ones with extensive commuter railroad, almost never do.
AndyDuncan: “I find it unfortunate that race is being used to further this argument.” ???
I wrote a much longer response. But, PEOPLE. Racism isn’t just the overt kind where white people snub everyone else in writing; there’s also institutional racism, which may not be a conscious action, but is just as real. It’s what happens when there’s a long history of white people holding power over what the transportation landscape looks like, and when the basic assumptions the people in power are making (like whether the person with the longer commute somehow counts more, eh hem) more often come from a privileged perspective.
It does not matter if there were no racist intentions; if one group of people gets screwed more than another group of people, that’s worth trying to redress, especially when it just so happens that the people getting screwed have a long history of being oppressed by the other group. And until there isn’t economic and geographic disparity between racial backgrounds, it’s worth looking into what kind of funding different places get.
Sure, it’s important to ask what else might be going on and there’s a lot of nuance to be added. The point about suburban and urban taxes is very interesting. But I’m getting the feeling that some people here are dismissing the claim of institutional racism as somewhat flippant, and I simply cannot abide by that.
@tabitha: Certainly racism persists in nuanced and subtle ways, and I’m sure that it (along with classism) plays a part in situations like this where funding is diverted to areas with greater political influence (which are almost always whiter).
But this would be a problem even if both areas were white or both minority, and the point is that there’s an unequal funding gap between the two. Too many (white) people dismiss these kind of accusations by saying “I’m not racist, so that claim is bullshit”, even, of course, when they actually are racist at some level.
My point was not that I don’t think racism is a factor here (so forgive me if I came across that way), but that I think a better way of making an argument like this is to just look at the number of people affected. The numbers speak for themselves, there’s an unequal distribution here, that’s what needs to be fixed and I feel we have a better shot of convincing people if we don’t cry “racism”. It causes people to shut down. I just don’t see a reason to have an argument about race when the numbers are so blatant anyway.
“This is not an argument for letting passenger-km vote. It’s an argument that passenger-km are a better proxy for revenue than passengers.”
I can’t make any sense of these statements.
“For commuting purposes, the value of a person who’s chosen to live 30 kilometers outside the city is no higher than the value of a person who lives in the city.”
Nonsense. The most common benefit of longer commutes is lower housing costs. Housing is generally cheaper in suburbs than in central cities. Why do you think people are willing to put up with longer commutes if they don’t get any benefit from them?
You could be right if the argument were political. But it’s a legal argument, and a well-founded racism charge is often the only way to convince a judge to modify the situation. A political argument would go nowhere because people in the suburbs are not going to stop hogging transportation subsidies voluntarily.
All else being equal, housing is cheaper in the suburbs. But all else is usually not equal, not in the US. The suburbs are mostly minority-free, which boosts property values. Usually the concerns with cities are framed in terms of schools or crime, but both issues are heavily racialized, and the proposed solutions all boil down to putting minorities in their place.
And none of this bears any relation to the question, “Is it right to subsidize a suburbanite by several times as many as an inner-city dweller just because the suburbanite travels longer?”.
“All else being equal, housing is cheaper in the suburbs. But all else is usually not equal, not in the US. The suburbs are mostly minority-free, which boosts property values. Usually the concerns with cities are framed in terms of schools or crime, but both issues are heavily racialized, and the proposed solutions all boil down to putting minorities in their place.”
Regardless of what you imagine the reasons for the differences in price to be, suburban housing is generally cheaper than central city housing of comparable size and quality. That’s one reason why people are willing to put up with long commutes to the suburbs. The long commute is more valuable to them than a short commute because it allows them to enjoy cheaper and/or better housing.
“And none of this bears any relation to the question, “Is it right to subsidize a suburbanite by several times as many as an inner-city dweller just because the suburbanite travels longer?”.”
It bears on the question of how best to measure transportation benefit in this context. “Passenger-miles” is a better measure than “passengers” or “trips” because it reflects the greater benefit of longer trips.
Actually Alon, from your description the answer is Yes. Subsidising white flight by overspending on sprawl infrastructure is economic racism IMO.
As to Chicago, the history is very clear.
“For an individual person or a neighbourhood, the value of a trip made likely does increase with length. But the claim breaks down when you compare, say, urban with suburban areas — the latter has much higher trip lengths without higher utility. It’s certainly a doubtful conclusion that person A gets a higher value from their trips than person B just because person A has longer trips on average.”
You don’t get to decide for other people what gives them higher utility. You only get to decide that for yourself. Trip cost tends to increase with trip length. Longer trips tend to cost more than shorter trips. People wouldn’t be willing to pay the higher cost of a longer trip if they got the same benefit from a shorter trip. So in the aggregate, trip benefit increases with trip length. “Passenger-miles” is therefore a much better measure of transportation benefit than “number of trips.” The fact that a particular short trip by one particular individual may provide a higher benefit than a particular longer trip by a different particular individual does not alter this aggregate relationship between trip benefit and trip length.
And “revenue” is a better measure because it reflects actual benefits, not a proxy for benefits…
But in terms of subsidy, the value of a trip is no longer relevant. Good government doesn’t discriminate in terms of people’s value of themselves. What you’re asking is for transit subsidies to be decided based on the same criteria that the Titanic officers used to decide who should get to go on the lifeboats first.
And in terms of good transit, the profitable transit agencies of the world – the MTR, the Tokyo subway operators, JR, the various private railroads in Japan – report passengers first, or only. Passenger-km they report for intercity trips. So your views aren’t just bad morality – they’re bad transit efficiency.
I actually suspect this lawsuit is really part of a political campaign: I haven’t read the complaint very carefully or researched the law in detail, but claims of institutional racism (disparate impact) are extremely hard to prevail on nowadays, ever since Reagan appointed over 2/3 of the country’s federal judges. (And the Constitution, believe it or not, permits institutional racism and has done so since the 1970s — see the case Washington v. Davies). To win at federal law nowadays, you almost always have to show intent to discriminate, which is very hard to show.
Andy writes that:
“I feel we have a better shot of convincing people if we don’t cry “racism”. It causes people to shut down. I just don’t see a reason to have an argument about race.”
I think this is both right and wrong. If institutional racism exists, I think it’s important that we learn to talk about it in a serious way and encourage the people who currently “shut down” to realize how subtle and nuanced race is. So while in the short run, you are right, perhaps its better not to cry ‘race’, but in the long run I think you absolutely have to talk about it. Otherwise, it’ll never go away.
Well, look at Labor-Community Startegy Center vs. LA County MTA. A Title VI lawsuit was successful there. There is precedent for imposing a “consent decree” on agencies, which could mean, for example, a fare freeze on CTA and a program to increase fares on Metra to a court-ordered level.
“And “revenue” is a better measure because it reflects actual benefits, not a proxy for benefits”
Assuming that by “revenue” you mean transit fares and any other usage fees, no, that is not a better measure of benefits. It’s a very poor measure, because transit is so heavily subsidized.
“But in terms of subsidy, the value of a trip is no longer relevant. Good government doesn’t discriminate in terms of people’s value of themselves. What you’re asking is for transit subsidies to be decided based on the same criteria that the Titanic officers used to decide who should get to go on the lifeboats first.”
I haven’t made any proposal regarding subsidies. My argument has been about how to measure transportation benefit. And your “Titanic” comment is just silly.
You can measure revenue relative to expenses, i.e. farebox recovery. In most parts of the US, it’s higher for subways than for commuter rail.
The Titanic comment isn’t silly at all – that’s what happens when decisions are made based on assigning different values to different people.
This is a very sticky situation CTA finds itself in, and it should try to avoid the madness that befell L.A. during the consent decree decade of 1996-2006.
The big problem CTA, the plaintiffs and all riders will face is that legal remedies are very difficult to reconcile with the realities of service.
The plaintiffs seem to argue that Metra has taken away money from CTA, thereby leading whites to take away money from black and Latino riders. The remedy seems to be to take money away from Metra and put it into CTA service.
First, the challenge on both sides will be to see if there’s a transparent connection between where revenues originate and where they are supposed to be dedicated, along with subsidies.
Does Chicago establish a clear funding formula? Also, who sets the formula? Is it done at the regional level, or is the RTA a state agency?
The other issue the plaintiffs must address is how to define the harmed party and what constitutes a remedy.
The harmed parties are black and Latino riders, but the tricky part is how to make the plantiffs whole.
Would CTA have to concentrate adding service to the areas with the heaviest black and Latino populations? The remedy addresses the target plaintiffs’ residences, but that’s not necessarily where they ride.
If Chicago has a heavy imbalance between residences and activities (jobs, schools, etc.), that means the remedy is wasted money. What if the residents live in one area, but must get to jobs, schools, etc. that are in wealthier areas? That would mean having to spend the remedy money on services outside of the plaintiffs’ areas. This goes against the intent of the lawsuit.
The flipside is that transit service might be clustered to high-poverty areas. This could open up another racial discrimination lawsuit in the future. What happens if you have a line where service is reasonably frequent in the South Side or West Side, but this results in short line trips with fewer full-length trips going into wealthier areas. This would satisfy the legal demands, but it could lead to charges that the imbalanced service is designed to deter minorities from leaving their neighborhoods.
There could be other methods for targeted remedies: Putting money on services that are most used by blacks and Latinos, reducing fares on lines or in areas with high concentrations of blacks and Latinos, or adding service hours as a redistributive measure (as opposed to based on actual demand).
These all illustrate the judicial vs. operational pitfall. Transit services, after all, have to be used in order to have any value. Spending money on remedial service is not the same as a cash settlement.
Mandating a service that meets the needs of blacks and Latinos means that the award of better service dilutes the value to the injured party. Race- or geographically targeted service also has the impact of diminishing the effectiveness of transit service. That makes service more expensive to operate, thereby creating the conditions to cut the very services the suit was meant to address.
I’ve also looked at the National Transit Database profiles of the CTA, Metra and even Pace, which is apparently not a party in the suit. All are 2007 data, the most current available.
The suit doesn’t address the cost gap of these services.
First, farebox recovery isn’t much help. Chicago’s urban services and Metra both earn 41% recovery. CTA’s prodigious revenues are very impressive for such a large bus system.
Metra charges fares according to zoned distances. CTA on the other hand charges a flat fare regardless of distance traveled, as is common on most systems.
On the other hand, “local funds” are proportionally much larger on Metra (also 41%) than CTA (27%). In real numbers, though, CTA still collects $307 million while Metra collects $222 million.
This is where the point of contention would likely stem in the subsidy discrimination issue. Yet this alone does not adequately establish discrimination. Metra’s subsidies don’t indicate what portion of its riders are black or Latino, or how many Chicago city riders reverse commute to destinations in the suburbs. Removing money from Metra would hurt a similar rider cohort.
CTA, though, collects much more state and federal funds proportionally and in real dollars than Metra. This could also imply that Metra uses up more local subsidies than CTA because it either forgoes or is ineligible for state and federal funding.
There is also an “other funds” category for both, but these might be service-specific grants or other monies that cannot be reallocated.
When it comes to service, there’s a wide gulf between costs in both systems.
Metra’s operating expense per boarding is $6.58, with more than 74 million annual unlinked trips. CTA’s bus and rail services both get $2.82, with nearly half a billion unlinked trips annually.
Yet the cost per passenger mile is extreme. Metra posts a 29 cent per pass/mile expense. CTA’s rail services post a 48 cent per pass/mile expense. CTA’s buses, which would be the most likely to be expanded in the lawsuit, post a massive $1.14 per pass/mile expense.
How would a CTA bus costing almost 4 times more to run be resolved in the case? Is it fair to cut 4 pass/miles of Metra service to pay for 1 pass/mile of CTA bus service?
The other elephant in the room is operating expenses. Payroll is 69% of Metra’s expenses, but 80% of CTA’s.
Pace, meanwhile, limps along with a 24% farebox recovery and zero local funding support. What are the racial and income compositions of Pace riders for local services?
It needs $4.13 for every bus boarding, but has an operating expense of 61 cents per pass/mile. Pace relies on private contractors to provide a great deal of service, so wages are lower. Payroll is only 58% of total operating costs, the best out of all 3.
The inclusion of Pace implies that Chicago has considerable bloat in its operations expenses. The service cuts have largely to do with its payroll outlays and high pass/mile operating costs.
Metra can’t be held at fault for bus service being so darn expensive within Chicago. Pace proves that fact.
Plus, Pace has a mix of directly operated and contract-operated transportation. A majority of Pace’s buses are operated in-house, which are likely more expensive to run than contract services.
So does this mean that the plaintiffs’ restitution may hinge upon running very expensive service as a legal remedy? Or does this mean CTA can defend itself by pleading that it’s mismanaged?
No on both counts. But it does show the challenges of trying to mesh legal demands with the costs and provisions of real-world service.
While just about everybody is saying that the lawsuit filed recently against IDOT, RTA, and Metra is unfounded and some kind of lawyer scam; the lawsuit (however frivelous) is the end result the Southeast Lakefront quadrant of the city being left out of CTA’s RAIL transit system grid.
Especially in Mr. Mungula’s case of living in the community of South Chicago, to which
the closest CTA ‘L’ service is the Red Line; a 25 to 45 minute bus ride away (and using 1 of the 2 transfers available on a single fare trip).
Had the Transit Operators (RTA, CTA, and Metra) found a way years ago, there would have been no reason for Mr. Mungula and Ms. McGhee to consider a (frivelous) suit.
As can be seen on this beautiful and geographically accurate map posted on The Transport Politic: https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2009/08/13/chicago-moves-forward-with-three-rapid-transit-extensions/ the large Southeast quadrant of the city (to the lower right) does not have the same CTA rapid transit coverage as the rest of the city.
The fact that the Metra Electric District serves the area is of little or no benefit as the Electric District has NO fare or service integration with local CTA bus and rail services.
CTA has no plans EVER to extend ‘L’ service to the area (it would cost approx. $2 billion to construct a new Southeast CTA ‘L’ Line), and plans from the South Lakefront communities have been largely ignored for many years:
Hopefully, with the impetus of the Lawsuit pressing their feet to the fire, the new RTA/CDOT Southeast Lakefront Corridor Study will end-up being profitable to all.
Jeremy, why would you take the 55 Garfield to either the Green or Red Lines and then to the loop when you can take the 6, X28 or 2 directly downtown (to the loop) or the IC (granted out of system)?
But yes, the south side is poorly served compared to the north (it’s also much larger and has lots of open areas in the far SE regions of the city).
admittedly, i’m not a lawyer nor do I know much about Chicago demographics but my point to make is that Chicago isn’t unique in the regional rail vs. transit funding scenario. All transit should be adequately funded. Maybe Chicago really is that segregated but I don’t see the benefit (or the accuracy) of trying to inject race into a transit system that was planned and built 100 years ago (before Chicago had a significant, non-white population).
“Suburbanites do outnumber city residents — but they’re far less likely to be transit-needy, as discussed by some of the previous commenters.”
I’m car-free in Philadelphia. Have been for 13 of the last 15 years. During our last few transit strikes my day-to-day was inconvenienced but otherwise I had no trouble getting on with my life. Plenty of people had trouble getting to their jobs in the suburbs and folks in the more suburban parts of the city had trouble getting to the doctor’s or to the grocery store. Commuter trains are a lifeline for a lot of carless people in the city and the suburbs.
“the central city has to provide the core facilities for the region and doesn’t take home much of the property tax paid by many people who work downtown, since they live in the suburbs.”
The reason they have to provide the core facilities (subsidized by everyone in the state) is because of the concentration of employment in the central city. I’ve been to the Loop and to all of the tourist attractions around it. That place is a magnet for suburban discretionary dollars and the city reaps $millions in taxes from all of the businesses in those office buildings . . . if it wasn’t a rail hub the enormity of downtown Chicago wouldn’t be possible.
Jim, most instances of US racial inequality today come from preserving ideas from 100+ years ago that had no racial component to them, but are now useful in keeping minorities in their place.
For example, the district-based system of funding education was not meant to exclude blacks; at the time it was instituted, the South had segregated schools and the rest of the country had too few blacks for anyone to care. But beginning in the 1950s, the white middle class moved to the suburbs to avoid sharing school districts with blacks, and then ensured that inner-city school districts couldn’t annex suburban territory as they did before the system was so racialized.
For another example, many states keep laws on the books disenfranchising ex-felons in order to keep blacks off the voter rolls. Those laws date to the 19th century, when blacks couldn’t vote anyway, which is why the Supreme Court has not struck them down; however, the intent today in keeping these laws is racial, as witnessed by the racial fearmongering that comes whenever someone tries to reform the system.
To the CTA Gray Line Project, the lawsuit would not compel or help the project from being built.
It’s a billion-dolllar-plus project, and does not offer immediate relief to the plaintiffs. The underserved South Side can get a rail line, but capital costs won’t do anything to help the riders for many years. The plaintiffs seek a remedy at hand.
That can only be done by adding bus service.
On the other hand, the lawsuit as structured may end up taking a proper solution off the table.
You mentioned the Electric District corridor running through the South Side. There are South Side stations, too, so at least there isn’t a barrier of access where residents cannot board a train.
Theoretically Metra could operate additional trains and implement a fare-parity policy within Chicago city limits. A Metra ride would cost $2.25, just like a CTA bus or rail trip.
The Bay Area has a fare regime like this. BART has a fare schedule for every possible station combination, rather than a flat fare or concentric distance. The regional fares are distance-based, but travelers remaining within a local bus agency’s service boundary pay the same fare as the local bus system. (There does end up some nonsense, like a trip across San Francisco costing the same as a Muni fare while a short trip, like West Oakland to Embarcadero or Daly City to Balboa Park, costs about a dollar more.)
The upside is that it could solve the South Side access issue. Also, Metra has comparative advantage in that commuter rail has the lowest per-mile passenger costs of all Chicago metropolitan area services.
The downside is that Metra is the defendant in the case and the goal of the lawsuit is to take away commuter rail funding as a remedy. While Metra has the infrastructure in place, a plan to remedy service with Metra may also constitute a transfer of resources to an agency charged with serving suburban riders, thereby giving more money to suburban riders.
Where to begin? As a Chicago resident I think the plaintiffs are on very solid ground. There is a funding formula, and it systematically screws the CTA. Ever since the 1983 deal that bailed out transit in the Chicago area, the CTA has received 59 percent of RTA operational subsidies, even though it accounts for 82 percent of ridership. Metra gets 27 percent of funding, for 12 percent of riders. One consequence is that we have really very cheap commuter rail fares. But there’s another story lurking behind the headline figures.
That is the sales tax pattern that funds RTA. For a long time, it was one percent in Cook County and 0.25 percent in the collar counties. In 2008, due to the long-term trend toward decreasing sales tax revenues that has been completely ignored by Illinois politicians, those tax rates were changed: 1.25 percent in Cook; and a combination 0.75 percent in the collar counties, two-thirds for the RTA, and one-third to be spent on either local transportation or local public safety at the county board’s discretion. (Illinois sales tax goes disproportionately on goods, and almost totally ignores services, and so is in decline because a) consumption has trended strongly towards services over the past 30 years and b) taxing goods as heavily as we do simply encourages people to do mail order.)
Note that Cook revenue pattern. It’s a countywide tax. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the CTA, as the city and about 40 adjoining suburbs are, or outside of it. It’s still the same tax rate. Cook County outside the CTA is the area that is therefore getting most screwed, as they’re paying for Chicago levels of service and not getting it. That’s not to diminish the south side situation, which is just as bad in its own way as the outer Cook situation and in some respects worse as a large proportion of inner city residents don’t have the kind of access to a car that people in, say, Barrington do. It simply points out that south side minorities aren’t the only ones getting screwed. And to add spice to the situation, there’s a substantial area in south Cook County that are as devoid of CTA service as Barrington, and as poor and minority as the inner city. That’s where you’ll find the people who are truly getting screwed the most, Thornton Township, places like that.
Last point for now, an important bit of history. One of the big problems for south side transit users is the lack of connectivity between rail lines. As the Illinois Central (Metra Electric) was downgraded after the second world war, it became, at least off-peak, less like a rapid transit line and more like conventional commuter rail. It easily has the capacity to turn back into rapid transit, if only it would be used. But getting people to use it means connecting it with other lines, such as the CTA. And two black pastors on south 63rd street, Arthur Brazier and Leon Finney, managed to destroy that opportunity in 1997 by prevailing upon the CTA to demolish the newly renovated connection on the Green Line between Cottage Grove and the Metra Electric at Dorchester. Brazier, of the First Apostolic Church of God megachurch right on 63rd street, had real estate interests along 63rd street, and both were/are of a generation that’s still stuck in a very suburban mindset. They were genuinely convinced that the el tracks on 63rd drew crime (there are no empirical data that I know of that backs that up, however), and they decided the way to redevelop the street was with suburban style homes rather than in an urban form. So down went the tracks, due to a combination of conflicts of interest, a weak-willed CTA board whose decision making was entirely driven by a handful of people in Woodlawn rather than the needs of the South Side as a whole, and a 1950s suburban mindset on the part of the developer-pastors. It cost less than $10 million to renovate the old tracks; demolishing the newly renovated tracks required the CTA to reimburse the federal government for matching funds and for the proposed Dorchester transfer station; doing it over now would be hundreds of millions. But some kind of extension of the Green Line to Metra Electric is vital on all sorts of counts; making rail transit viable on the South Side; connecting Hyde Park to more African American neighborhoods, and above all making Woodlawn the hub it once was.
Wad, the cost of the CTA Gray Line is $100 MILLION T O T A L implementation cost for 22 miles and 37 stations ($5 million per mile – not $100 million per mile like the Red Line extension). This is because it is a conversion of an existing and in service operation, and not a new construction. And that is the big crime, they seek $600 MILLION for SIX MILES and FIVE STATIONS of Red Line extension; BUT they aren’t interested in seeking $100 MILLION (TOTAL) for TWENTY-TWO MILES and T H I R T Y – S E V E N Gray Line stations. Which seems to be a better cost/benefits ratio to you Wad?
Whites fleeing the city because, all of the sudden, black people showed up in 1955 is the popular narrative. Having lived through it, the reality was something different. whites had been leaving the city for 20 years- to larger, modern housing that was subsidized by federal and state governments on nearly every level – before the riots of the late 60’s/early 70’s that sparked the mass exodus of more whites (in certain neighborhoods). With governments divesting from urban areas and government(s) practically paying people to move to the ‘burbs it would’ve happened eventually anyway.
In fact, wealthy and upper-middle class whites had been leaving the city since the advent of passenger rail. Go no further than Riverside, IL, ca. 1868, with Olmsted himself writing that the brownstone was “really a confession that it is impossible to build a tasteful and convenient residence in [the city] adapted to the civilized requirements of a single family, except at a cost which even rich men find prohibitive.” Even the more modest middle class had been fleeing the central city since the advent of the streetcar. There has been an anti-urban streak in this country going back a lot longer than Eisenhower’s interstate.
When most of my extended family (and most of our neighbors) were leaving Flatbush for greener pastures in Staten Island, Long Island and NJ it had nothing to do with black people. The neighborhood was almost entirely Jewish, Irish and Italian. First and foremost, it had to do with the crummy apartments that most people were living in and the seduction of a new house and yard that they could call their own. The demographics of the neighborhood only started to change a good 15 years after the exodus began.
The reasons urban blacks were stranded while our cities were falling down around them is partly due to a lack of employment based, economic mobility (read: employer racism) and partly due to racist housing policy and practice and partly because many of them were still arriving from the south as industry and capital was leaving the city (and the country for that matter).
Now, if you can bring that all back to a 120 year old rapid-transit system and an even older commuter rail network in Chicago (and the suggested intrinsic racism) I’d be much obliged.
The Title VI Complaint I am reopening with FTA, IDOT and RTA is very different from last weeks lawsuit; they claim Metra is unfairly getting more funds than CTA overall, causing deteriorated CTA services. My complaint is that the Southeast Lakefront Corridor (only) is being excluded from rail transit plans being made for many other city and suburban regions. CTA it self (Municipal Rapid Transit) is planning a Yellow Line Extension (in a suburb entirely outside the City Limits of the City of Chicago), while they do no yet serve all parts of Chicago itself (aforementioned Southeast Lakefront Corridor). Metra says it gets no type of funding from the city for providing in-city services; here is a chance to get those in-city services 100% city funded. Please check out the Gray Line website (click on “CTA Gray Line Project” above); complete detailed information on costs, operations, and links to many newspaper articles are available there. Please post any Gray Line questions here, and I will answer them promptly.
Indeed all that is needed to implement the Gray Line are some faregates/TVMs and a few T/Os to run the tighter headway trains. Extending Metra Electric density to Hegewisch will cost a bit more money to clean up the Kensington bottleneck. All of this is cheap, relatively easy and has the advantage of short term results. Repairing the stupidity on 63rd sadly is not likely, although if the Green line were extended west to Midway, getting the connectivity to Metra would become obvious.
I have read that Metra is considering restoration of stations on the Rock Island which haven’t been served in decades–Englewood, 47th(?), and 35th.
Jim, you are forgetting the practice of block-busting which was common until probably the early 80’s in many parts of Chicago, in which realtors, after selling to a black family, would scare the other white families into selling, garnering them huge commissions, while plying on white fears and charging black families higher, or at least inflated, prices, in turn screwing both black and white homeowners.
The Gray Lines biggest problem, which is never adequately addressed by it’s supporters, is the street running of the South Chicago Branch – increasing frequencies would create gridlock (the comparisons the the yellow – very quick and low frequency, as well as major streets grade separated and the end of the brown with grade crossings, again with no major street crossings) on the very busy south side streets (Jeffrey, Stony Island – an eight lane boulevard, etc) which more frequent trains would cause is not truly addressed in these proposals.
And of course, there would still be no direct connection into the CTA’s rail system – not even a tranfer corridor – the el is a block and a half away downtown and the closet subway a block further. Plus all the headache it would cause at the downtown stations – having to add a third operators fare control and platforms (Randolph/Millennium has separate platforms) downtown and at transfer stations. And of course, lots of people were happy to have the turnstyles removed about five (or six) years ago as it is.
FG > “The Gray Lines biggest problem, which is never adequately addressed by it’s supporters, is the street running of the South Chicago Branch – increasing frequencies would create gridlock (the comparisons the the yellow – very quick and low frequency, as well as major streets grade separated and the end of the brown with grade crossings, again with no major street crossings) on the very busy south side streets (Jeffrey, Stony Island – an eight lane boulevard, etc) which more frequent trains would cause is not truly addressed in these proposals”.
Mike >> While this is of course the second decade of the 21st Century, from the 1920’s to the 50’s the South Chicago Branch ran with MUCH MORE frequent IC train service. Some small street crossings would be closed; and I don’t think more frequent trains would cause that much congestion on the busy streets, it certainly would not cause any gridlock – I know – I used to lived there.
Even trains every 5 minutes crossing Stony Island at 71st St. could not cause half the congestion that exists at the six-way Stony Island/79th St./South Chicago Ave. intersection one mile south which has no rail crossing at all.
FG > “And of course, there would still be no direct connection into the CTA’s rail system – not even a tranfer corridor – the el is a block and a half away downtown and the closet subway a block further”.
Mike >> True, there would be no direct physical connection, but there would be charge-less fare card connections downtown like Orange Line to Red Line at State & Lake or Library/State & Van Buren.
FG > “Plus all the headache it would cause at the downtown stations – having to add a third operators fare control and platforms (Randolph/Millennium has separate platforms) downtown and at transfer stations. And of course, lots of people were happy to have the turnstyles removed about five (or six) years ago as it is”.
Mike >> ALL CTA ‘L’ stations have turnstyles (and are manned during all train operating hours), this would be a new CTA ‘L’ line, so it would be no different. Question: Do you think that the stations on the new Red Line extension will have turnstyles?
And the headaches I think are far less than the $2 billion cost of building a completely new 22 mile rail infrastructure to use CTA ‘L’ type cars.
You shouldn’t think in terms of what type of car runs on the line. Any non-compliant EMU should be fine. You should think in terms of service: connecting bus service, the fare regime, schedules and frequency, express service patterns (if any), rail connection construction priorities.
Where to begin? As a Chicago resident I think the plaintiffs are on very solid ground. There is a funding formula, and it systematically screws the CTA.
CTA is screwing CTA just about as much as the RTA’s funding allocation to it.
The plaintiffs will have a problem if they win the case.
The remedy will be an increase of bus service to the underserved black and Latino population of Chicago. First, there has to be a definition of who fits into the population, and second, how will the money be distributed.
The other problem is that whatever services — most likely, buses — will be restored, 80 cents of every dollar earned as a remedy will go into CTA’s payroll.
This is in all probability what was the driving (no pun intended) factor behind the cuts. CTA may very well go to court and say it had to cut its most expensive (highest cost to lowest productivity ratio) services.
As you said about Metra taking an outsized portion of subsidies for a small percentage of ridership, it takes 41% of local funds because for some reason, it’s rather lightly subsidized by the state and the feds. CTA collects more state and federal subsidies to make up for the proportionally smaller local share.
The poor service in low-income/minority jurisdictions outside the CTA coverage area poses a problem. Is CTA, at least its buses, confined to the Chicago city limits? (The urban rail services leave the city.)
The lawsuit wouldn’t address this issue, as Pace, the non-Chicago bus service, is not a party to the suit. The allegations state racial discrimination for black and Latino residents of the city of Chicago.
@Alon and all,
First Gray line is correct about train frequency in the 50s. I spent summers there then and IC trains were passing every 20 min each direction midday. South Shore is less densely populated now than then so gridlock is NOT an issue.
Second, No, non compliant EMU’s cannot be used because Metra Electric hosts CSS&SB which mixes w/ freight on its route. This is particularly an issue for Gray Line service on the CSS&SB to Hegiswisch which is the economy version of the proposed Red Line to serve the same area. Because CSS&SB trains MUST be compliant, mixing them w/non compliant Metra cars is not feasible.
If the CTA is serious about converting Metra Electric to urban rail standards, it will have to request a rule of special applicability for FRA compliance exemption. Caltrain is doing the same, preparing to run noncompliant EMUs; it involves doing simulations to convince the FRA that noncompliant trains are actually safer.
Hey Alon, CTA is not doing this, I am. The “CTA Gray Line Project” is me – Mike Payne – one single private citizen working all by myself since 1996. Due to present FRA/FTA rules, you cannot create a new noncompliant EMU service on the same or adjacent rails with Class I (Metra Highliner and South Shore) equipment. CTA has NO plans either to ever provide RAIL service to the SE Side. This beautiful geographically accurate Transit Politic map: http://bit.ly/TransitExt shows that the SE Side (to the lower right) does NOT have the same brightly colored CTA rapid transit access as the rest of the city (and some suburbs). Metra Electric doesn’t show, and doesn’t count; not part of the system.
The behavior of Metra regarding Metra Electric, which runs through lots and lots of inner-city minority neighborhoods — and gets treated as the red-headed stepchild — exacerbates the situation. This lawsuit wouldn’t get off the ground if Metra were making Metra Electric their flagship line and investing in the South Chicago Branch and the line north of the junction. They really aren’t.
Ther would be no point in them just improving service or investing. It wouldn’t make any difference if trains ran every 2 minutes, and they re-constructed every single in-city station as the new Chicago Taj Mahals; without COMPLETE CTA fare integration all along the line, they wouldn’t get ONE single new passenger. Metra knows that, and so do I. And if more money were taken from Metra, and given to CTA – but CTA still made no RAIL investments on the SE Side; the situation for the plaintiffs would not have changed.
“Indeed all that is needed to implement the Gray Line are some faregates/TVMs and a few T/Os to run the tighter headway trains. ”
Plus refurbishment of the stations. They are often suffering from severely decayed concrete (in need of repair) and need ADA elevators/ramps and platform edges.
That’s still not very expensive. And it should have been done YEARS ago. The GREY LINE is just something which should have been in place decades ago. The grade crossings in South Chicago are not an issue, as the traffic there really isn’t that high.
It’s Metra which is engaging in ‘transit racism’ — its investments seem to be going everywhere *but* the minority-majority Chicago stations. Moving money from Metra to CTA would probably benefit people overall, but if the issue is institutional racism, the suit should have targeted Metra directly rather than the RTA.
Yes, roughly a quarter of stations are still not accessible but, many have been rehabbed and more are happening. Obviously implementing the Gray Line should include this work. As to rolling stock, I see NO need to play the Euro EMU game, Clones of Silverliner V’s, M8’s, or more of the current Highliner II’s will do just fine. Non compliant cars mean an entire rethink of CSS&SB’s fleet and operation–waste of $$ and effort. The real issues are can CTA get with the program and will riders show up.
n the long term the dream would be enough ridership to occasion restoration of some of the in town stations lost after WW II and the 5th and 6th mains north of 51st.
Noncompliant equipment = better power to weight ratio (i.e. faster acceleration), lower energy use, much less need for maintenance.
Road and rail wear is proportional to the fourth power of axle load, so even a small reduction in vehicle weight means a substantial reduction in the need for maintenance. The new rolling stock used in the Eastern US weighs about 60 tons per car; rolling stock used on catenary-powered subway systems, such as Singapore’s MRT, weighs about 35 tons per car. This gives a factor of 9 difference in the amount of maintenance required.
TVMs and faregates are wrong here. The Gray Line doesn’t connect to any L line, so putting it in the same fare control system as the L confers no advantage. Do a proof of payment system, with strong incentives for people to use unlimited monthly tickets. This reduces the need for buying many TVMs, and makes it less likely that there will be a traffic jam of people trying to cross the faregates at busy locations.
(Yes, I know that I prescribed faregates for New York’s regional rail. First, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea anymore. And second, faregates’ economics scale with ridership. At very high levels of ridership, as in Tokyo and Paris, the cost of faregates and TVMs is lower than the cost of ticket inspectors. Metra Electric isn’t the Chuo Line, or even the Northeast Corridor.)
One of the prime reasons for using CTA type fare collection and boarding procedures is so that no one (riders or staff) will have to learn anything new. No new fare instruments (all presently existing CTA forms work). No fare collection prcedures and forms unlike any other CTA OR Metra Line (guaranteed to cause endless arguments between riders and collectors/inspectors)
Faregates are new fare instruments on lines that do not have them. They’re expensive to build, maintain, and staff; they require placing more ticket vending machines, which are expensive as well.
I have no idea what forms you’re talking about. Existing proof of payment systems have no forms and no hassle – just pay the fine if you’re aught without ticket. It’s just like if you buy a ticket on board on American commuter rail systems, which is usually more expensive than buying in advance.
If the only argument against POP is “not invented here,” then it’s not a real argument.
Just read that inbound South Shore (longer distance) trains on the Metra Electric lines are not allowed to pick up passengers in Chicago, even when they stop to discharge passengers. I imagine this practice would be addressed in the lawsuit.
The South Shore Line is run by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which is not a party in this suit. The pick-up/drop-off rules with passengers seems to be to avoid direct competition with the Metra Electric Line
Alon> “Faregates are new fare instruments on lines that do not have them. They’re expensive to build, maintain, and staff; they require placing more ticket vending machines, which are expensive as well”.
Mike>> Do you think all the stations on the new CTA Red Line extension will have faregates and TVM’s, or be POP?
Alon> “I have no idea what forms you’re talking about”.
Mike>> “forms” = CTA Fare Instruments: Transit Cards, Chicago Cards, Chicago Card Plus, U-Pass, 30 Day Pass, 7-Day Pass, Visitor Passes, etc. Metra Fare Instruments: Monthly Pass, 10 Ride Ticket, One Way & Round Trip Tickets, Conductor Cash Ticket, etc.
Alon> “Existing proof of payment systems have no forms and no hassle – just pay the fine if you’re caught without ticket. It’s just like if you buy a ticket on board on American commuter rail systems, which is usually more expensive than buying in advance”.
Mike>> Tickets would still need to be vended and purchased, and how would inspectors scan a crowded train making frequent stops every four blocks?
Alon> “If the only argument against POP is “not invented here,” then it’s not a real argument”.
Mike>> To my knowledge, there is no POP CTA rail service in operation today; why start a new fare collection format unlike any other in the Chicago area? (guaranteed to cause arguments and confusion)
The Red Line extension will have faregates. However, the cost of installing faregates at a few extra stops of an extension is lower than this of installing them at a new line.
Unlimited cards make POP work better. There’s no need to validate them – as long as it’s written clearly what the expiry date is, they offer speedy inspections. In fact German rail systems make sure to incentive using unlimited cards since they require fewer TVMs. (And yes, German rail systems have multiple types of cards, too. Chicago isn’t special.)
As for why start a new fare collection format, the answer is that for the ME’s possible ridership, the new collection format is superior. Cities all over the world use this new fare collection format with success when they inaugurate their first BRT or light rail lines, even if their existing transit system is different, and many of the most successful commuter rail systems use it as well to cut operating costs.
To support Alon’s comment, POP systems are considered to be cost effective, as — if used systemwide — they have the lowest staff cost compared with other systems. (I guess that is the reason why POP systems are not that popular in the US).
And POP systems improve the productivity, particularly for buses and light rail vehicles, because every door can be used to enter and leave the vehicle.
Also, as Alon said, if part or precursor of a “Verkehrsverbund”, POP systems favor passes, which also are in the interest of the operator (being prepaid, and in the case of a monthly pass, the money becomes available 15 days earlier than with single tickets, lower cash handling costs, etc.). And I can assure you, a less limited pass makes you using the transit system way more frequently than if you have to pay for each and every trip.
As the POP ticket must have an indication of the validtiy time and area, it is more human-readable (and human-friendly) than magnet track or RFID-based systems.
The fee (some people calling it “fine”) you have to pay when you are caught without valid ticket, is normally something between 10 and 50 times the price of a regular one-way ticket. In some places the identification of the person is registered, and if that person is caught another time within a certain time span, the fee increases. On the other hand, the fee is paid back if that person can proof to have a valid pass (as in the case you forgot your monthly pass).
Fare evasion is an issue, of course. The (to me most familiar) ZVV (Canton of Zürich, Switzerland) states about 1.2% fare evasors. The increasing fees system with a registry got that value down from 4% before its introduction.
Another reason for manning the stations during all operating hours (like CTA), and using barrier fare collection is security. Open platforms allow anyone along with valid paid riders access to the platforms and trains; a single woman traveling alone at night will rightly NOT wait on an unmanned open platform in many of the SE Side neighborhoods, nor ride a train that any old body can get on and off anytime. So now you’ve lost a good percentage of your ridership. And creating new transit options is not the primary goal of the Gray Line; it is creating JOBS and spurring Economic Development IN the communities along the line.
The better transit is, the more economic development it promotes.
And most criminals are not deterred by $2 fares. New York had a big subway crime problem back in the 1980s, which was solved only when the transit police started doing a good job fighting back.