Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Universal Fare Card: Zeno's Paradox Illustrated

Zeno's paradox involving a race between Achilles and the tortoise seems to be playing out in real life as the RTA tries to catch up with its long-standing promise to bring a universal fare card to the region and never seems to make it.

It seems like just yesterday (actually April 15, 2007) when the Chicago Tribune (and other media outlets) reported that the RTA and the service boards were finally working together and that the "All-Transit Card is On The Way." Here's the Tribune's summary:

Commuters in the Chicago area may soon have the means to make transferring between trains and buses much easier: a single fare card that works on Metra, CTA and Pace.

After a long history of resisting the idea, the agencies are putting the finishing touches on a plan to offer a joint transit pass, officials confirmed.

The card would likely be a hybrid of Metra's monthly pass and the fare card now used by the CTA.

Creation of the new integrated transit pass, which officials plan to announce in the coming weeks, is expected to be popular with riders who have long complained about the inconvenience of the current system.

State legislators and transit watchdog groups for years have criticized CTA and Metra officials for accentuating the differences in their operations rather than focusing on giving riders seamless transit connections and a simplified fare structure.

Even Phil Pagano, the head of the ultra-conservative Metra ("what, bikes on trains"), sounded positively giddy at the prospects of a universal fare card:

Pagano said officials hope to have a working proposal completed within the next 30 days so it could be presented to CTA, Metra and Pace directors. He acknowledged that having better fare coordination among transit agencies has long been a concern of the public.

"If we can work this through, I think it's a good first step" toward providing fare coordination, Pagano said. "Fare coordination and [system] integration are important for our riders."

Alas, 'tis not to be. Today, only five weeks after the latest promise of the fare card at the end of the tunnel, the RTA announced it was deferring $7.5 million in spending to help close the "looming $226 million budget deficit." Among the projects deferred are "efforts to implement a universal fare card."

Apparently, the idea of a universal fare card has been around for over 30 years, dating from when the RTA was established via a referendum. This blogger still can't get over that vote and the broken promise of universal fare card.

It looks like the $7.5 million freed up by the RTA for operating subsidies will not go unused. The CTA announced that its budget deficit in the first quarter of 2007 was $8 million higher than expected. Ouch!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Zeno? You know Zeno? Zeno. Yeah that's him...I think it's Zeno--the head butcher Zeno-- at Nea Agora. Nice guy that Zeno--always throws a few extra chops in after he weighs the package-- just like the Metra guys do.