Good idea day

1. John McCormick in the Trib reports that the CTA will locate smart-card recharge boxes (which are about shoebox sized) “at [roughly] area currency exchanges and convenience stores” for a mere 1.8% commission. This will greatly help to decrease the social cost of raising cash fares while further spreading the benefits of Chicago Card.

Now, how about allowing daily or weekly passes on Chicago Card? I wonder if the software is smart enough to do an “auto day pass”: once you’ve taken $5 ($6?) of travel within a day, every additional trip could be free or refunded after the fact. (I understand that London’s Oyster smartcard has a “daily price cap” that ensures riders never pay more than a day-pass price for one day’s travel; any additional trips are free. This mechanism requires just a software routine to total each day’s usage and credit back the “overpayment.” For instance, say a trip is $2 and the day pass is $6; the fourth trip of the day could either be free, or the $2 would be refunded to the account at the end of the day.) Again, day passes are good for the system since they encourage more-profitable off-peak travel and reward the system’s best customers — and smart cards are good for the system since they are easier on equipment, do away with cash handling, and speed boarding.

These days, if I want to make a side trip (go to Chinatown for lunch, stop by a movie after work and then go home — all of which involve off-peak travel), I need to remember to grab one of the “1-Day Fun Passes” I have at home before leaving for the day — and forego the benefits of Chicago Card all day. I also need to remember to buy new passes, which seem to only be available at the visitor info centers and the airports. More likely, I’ll bike to work instead and thus avoid the marginal travel cost for the side trips. A “daily price cap” would solve this dilemma and make me (and many others) more likely to choose transit for these off-peak, non-work trips. A daily price cap would solve this.

2. Greg Hinz reports in “Crain’s”: that Lori Healey, presently a partner at Perkins & Will, will be DPD’s new commissioner. Healey was co-chair of MPC’s Urban Development Committee during my stint there, and consistently struck me as a dedicated, tough-nosed, and knowledgeable advocate: a good negotiator and facilitator. That’s pretty much what the city needs at DPD.

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