Remember last year when CTA and Metra were forced to raise fare prices to make ends meet? Riders had to tighten their belts, and as it turns out they’ve done it by choosing to ride a little less often.
CTA’s reports for recent months indicate a slight drop in ridership over past year. At a recent CTA board meeting, transit officials pointed out that while it is a relatively small change, one of the reasons for the decrease in ridership was the increased cost of the seven day pass.
Increased fares and subsequent decreases in ridership are just symptoms of the much larger problem facing transit agencies. Significant underfunding has forced the transit agencies to make tough decisions and the result is that we as riders are getting less for our money or choosing not to take transit at all.
We see the effects of the chronic underfunding not just in the drop in ridership, but also in the quality of the transit service provided.
According to a recent Chicago Sun Times editorial, Metra spent quite a bit of time apologizing for service disruptions this week. The commuter rail line suffered “19 days in which problems with locomotives, switches, signals and weather delayed trains 143 times on its Burlington Northern Sante Fe line.”
In the same period, the editorial noted, four other Metra lines also missed their on-time targets.
The drop in ridership and the steady increase of problems on transit systems, the backlog of necessary maintenance projects are all evidence of the fact that we have not given transit the funding it needs.
The world class transit system that Chicagoland wants and deserves is not going to build itself. It takes investment and commitment from our elected officials. Our elected leaders hold the purse strings and decide whether our transit agencies will keep struggling to make ends meet or grow to meet our needs. We need to speak up to demand that they increase investment in transit.