Yolanda Cruz lives in the Jeffrey Manor neighborhood on the Far South Side of Chicago. She works part-time as a health aide in Hyde Park and buys a seven-day pass every week to get to work.
Yolanda knows the seven-day pass is more expensive in the long run than the monthly pass, but the upfront cost of the monthly pass is just too much for her.
“You can’t buy a monthly pass when you have to think about paying your bills,” said Yolanda.
Yolanda’s story, unfortunately, is not unique.
Stories like hers are at the core of a new Active Transportation Alliance (Active Trans) campaign called Fair Fares Chicagoland, which seeks to make the regional transit system more equitable.
Active Trans, a nonprofit advocacy organization, new Fair Fares Chicagoland report details research and outlines policy recommendations.
- Create a reduced fare program: Create a 50% reduced transit fare program for CTA, Pace, and Metra for residents of Cook, Lake, McHenry , DuPage, Will, Kane, and eventually Kendall counties living at or below 200% of the federal poverty line.
- Implement fare-capping: A fare-capping policy prevents riders from spending more on multiple single ride passes than they would have if they had purchased a daily, weekly, or 30-day pass. This avoids penalizing residents who cannot pay upfront for a multi-day pass.
- Integrate fare collection: Residents traveling farther away on transit for work often have to transfer between agencies. Fare integration ensures that CTA, Pace, Metra have a seamless, affordable system for transferring between each agency.
- Decriminalize fare evasion: End criminalization of fare evasion on CTA, Pace, and Metra and provide alternatives of enrolling in the reduced fare program and community service hours.
- Free fares for Chicago youth: Provide free fares for low-income Chicago youth year-round until the age of 19.
“The benefits of accessible, affordable public transportation cannot be ignored,” said Melody Geraci, Interim Executive Director of Active Transportation Alliance. “There’s a great need for even more public subsidies to provide equitable fares and increased service to combat some of the biggest issues facing society — from climate change to segregation and institutionalized racism and income inequality.”
The report includes the results of a survey that was administered primarily in the South and West Sides, including in Englewood, Gage Park, and Little Village. Local canvassers helped to gather 654 survey responses from residents that highlight the transit needs of communities of color. Of the respondents, 441 have an annual income of $25,000 or less. Ninety percent of those respondents said they would more likely use trains or buses if the cost was lower.
In addition to survey data, Active Trans interviewed transit riders to capture their stories and to get a deeper sense of community perspectives on the affordability of transit. The report features their stories as well as case studies of other cities doing similar work, such as the Fair Fares NYC and ORCA Lift in Seattle. Cost estimates, proposals for how to pay for the recommendations, and implementation strategies are also featured.