posted at Capitol Fax Blog


CTA’s fares have been going up — in fact, since the 1984 RTA Act, much faster than either the rate of inflation or the cost of driving! That’s because Chicago sales tax revenue have trailed inflation (much less expense growth) since 1984, and the budget’s got to balance somehow. Oh yeah, and operating costs have declined over 10% in real dollars since 1984.

Just because the cost of gas is going up does not magically mean that the cost of transit service should increase at the same rate. Indeed, what you pay to drive is not at all indicative of the real cost of driving. Cars, collectively, are the #1 source of air pollution in our region — but even though asthma hospitalization rates along the Dan Ryan are four times higher than the national average, gas taxes don’t pay for the (also bankrupt) Cook County Hospital. Nor do your gas taxes pay to keep our troops guarding their oil, rebuilding taller levees to protect New Orleans against rising seas, or for funeral costs when children get killed in hit-and-runs. Nope, even we non-drivers pay those costs of your driving.


In fact, some calculations: according to AAA’s annual cost-per-mile estimates, the real cost of driving has dropped 9.9% since 1997 (adjusted for inflation). Meanwhile, as of next week, cash CTA fares will have increased 59.6%. (Not counting the 63% increase, the increase has been 17.6%.) We riders are already paying far more than our share.


* AAA, “Your Driving Costs 2007
* CTA, “President’s Report on CTA’s Fares and Proposal for the FY2004 Budget
* CTA, “Revised CTA Fare Structure Effective September 16, 2007
* Motor Trend Auto News, “Despite Higher Gas Prices, 2005 Driving Costs Nearly Unchanged From 2004” (historical cost estimates from AAA)
* Westegg.com inflation calculator (to inflate to 2006 dollars) and BLS CPI projection (to inflate to 2007 dollars)

3 thoughts on “Hyperinflation

  1. CTA fares may have gone up, but farebox recovery is still at the same rate. How do you explain this if energy costs have not skyrocketed? By your logic, the CTA has more profit now, than it did in 1984.

  2. A comment on yet more right-wing turds left by Cal Skinner and his buddies at Illinoize (Capitol Fax’s commentary page).

    First of all, Craver’s Herald article carefully juxtaposes facts to create the false impression that CTA will be getting money from McHenry. That’s not true. As Craver says, the new sales tax formula reduces CTA’s share of the sales tax from the current level, and shifts a good deal of its funding burden to us Chicago homeowners. Just as today, collar county receipts will fund Metra and Pace; it’s Cook County taxes that will fund all three.

    Cook County will, after all, pay over FIFTEEN TIMES as much as McHenry County with the same quarter cent increase in sales taxes. And Cook County’s heavy subsidizing of the breathtakingly money-losing collar county transit services will not only continue, but increase, in an attempt to win over your support.

    Re: transit still being a bargain, note that (as of next week) inflation adjusted cash fares on CTA will have increased 59.6% since 1998, while the cost of driving (per AAA) has actually decreased 9.9% since then. Plus, driving gets you door to door, in better comfort, and often faster — you pay for that convenience.

    Re: profitable transit. I don’t really care about whether transit made money before 1947, although all evidence points to it not making much money. (Or maybe you’re talking about the WW2 years, when the government rationed gasoline and required carpooling and transit use? Sounds great to me.) Let me repeat: your roads don’t make money (and lose a fortune once costs like air pollution are included), my transit doesn’t make money, and no other transit system in the world* makes money.

    Even contracted operations will not be a panacea. The Underground is right now suffering through strikes on lines managed by a bankrupt private operator. In 2004, NYC Transit had to de-privatize, at huge public cost, many of its bus lines, over complaints about service quality and the private companies’ inability to improve their fleets without giant subsidies.

    Now, closer to home, let’s see what the Auditor General has to say about Pace’s contracted bus service: “unit costs of the contract services are very similar to those of the directly operated bus service, with 2005 being the only year in the past five when the cost per mile for contracted service ($4.94) was lower than that of the directly operated service ($5.06). Because of fewer passengers per trip, the cost per passenger of the contract operated service was almost $1.50 higher than the directly operated services.”

    JB, Purple Line Express trains do stop at Addison for Cubs night games, and going forward will always stop at Sheridan (three blocks from Wrigley). Luggage racks to O’Hare were eliminated to provide more seats and better fleet compatibility. By the “Blue Line Spur” I think you mean the Pink Line, which has seen increased operations and increased ridership. Also, it’s not as easy to remove “empty buses” as you think: if a bus running every 10 minutes is 50% full, cutting service to every 20 minutes won’t magically fill it to 100%. Granted, bus bunching IS a problem, but having sat down at a table full of MIT grads talking about it, it’s not an easy one to fix.

    * except in Hong Kong, which is so crowded it would make the Loop look like McHenry County. As always, exceptions prove rules.

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