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CTA proposes reduced fares in 2022 budget to boost ridership

CTA’s base fares of $2.25 for bus and $2.50 for rail won’t change.

A CTA rail platform
The CTA’s 2022 proposed budget includes some fare cuts.
Sun-Times file

The Chicago Transit Authority has proposed slashing some fares to boost ridership, which has taken a hit during the pandemic.

First the sad news: CTA base fares — $2.25 for bus and $2.50 for rail — would remain the same.

Now the good stuff: Riders would no longer be on the hook for a 25-cent transfer fee. Under the proposed plan, a fare would allow for two free transfers within two hours to buses or trains.

The proposed 2022 budget also calls for the long-term adoption of what has been a promotional pricing plan that offered a CTA 1-Day Pass at $5 (lowered from $10), a CTA 3-Day Pass at $15 (lowered from $20) and a CTA 7-Day Pass at $20 (lowered from $28). The CTA/Pace 7-Day Pass price would also be priced at $25 (lowered from $33).

The price of a monthly pass would be cut to $75 from $105.

If approved by the CTA board next month, fare changes would take effect at the start of the new year, according to CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski.

At the height of the pandemic, CTA ridership dropped to a low of about 250,000 average weekday rides. Throughout 2021, ridership has steadily grown with more than 750,000 average weekday rides now being provided — roughly half of pre-pandemic levels.

As a result of that lost ridership, the CTA is projecting a 2022 budget shortfall of about $386 million. The CTA plans to fill the gap with federal relief funds to continue full service. Its total 2022 operating budget is $1.75 billion.

Despite less-than-rosy financial projections, the CTA is continuing to invest in infrastructure under the proposed budget.

The 2022-26 Capital Improvement Program calls for $3.4 billion in investment over the next five years. Among the projects is the Red Line Extension to 130th Street — the largest in CTA history.