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Thread: (Chicago) CTA card a good buy, but just try to find one

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
    Oct 2001
    Arlington, Virginia

    (Chicago) CTA card a good buy, but just try to find one

    Looks like CTA's move to get people to pay with the CTA card instead of cash is working. Whenever this is proposed in DC, people say it would hurt the poor and they won't get the smart cards.. well CTA eliminated the fee for th card istelf (for a limited time) purchase one and with the fare increase stores can't keep them in stock.


    CTA card a good buy, but just try to find one
    It's the hottest ticket since fares went up

    By Virginia Groark
    Tribune staff reporter

    January 6, 2006

    Scores of grocery stores and currency exchanges around Chicago have temporarily run out of the prepaid fare cards widely promoted by the Chicago Transit Authority as a way for bus and train riders to avoid paying the Jan. 1 cash fare increase.

    Many of the 37 Dominick's Finer Food stores that typically carry the card ran out this week as CTA customers snatched them up to avoid paying the 25-cent increase, a corporate spokeswoman said.

    Some Jewel stores and currency exchanges in Chicago, Evanston, Summit and Oak Park also have sold out, store employees and managers said Thursday. Though orders for more have been placed, some stores have been told the new cards won't arrive for several days.

    "This is just unbelievable," said Hyde Park resident Earl Hopewell, who went to seven locations Wednesday and Thursday and found all sold out. "This is either operating and financial ignorance, or it's a calculated financial windfall. In either case, it's wrong."

    CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said the agency relies on vendors to tell them when they need more cards. She said it has been warning vendors for several weeks that they could see a surge in demand and should request cards before they run out.

    The CTA, which has 42,000 cards in stock and expects another 30,000 to arrive in the next few days, is replenishing the orders as soon as it receives them, she said. Another 50,000 cards are expected by the end of the month and 96,000 next month.

    The cards may still be purchased online, by mail at CTA headquarters and at some stores listed on the agency's Web site.

    The demand for the cards was sparked by Sunday's fare increase. Cash fares jumped to $2 from $1.75, and 25-cent cash transfers were eliminated.

    But people with an unlimited-ride pass or a Chicago Card, which is a stored value card that deducts a fare when it is tapped on a sensor, do not have to pay more and can still transfer for 25 cents. Fare remains $1.75 for transit cardholders on buses, but jumps to $2.00 on trains.

    To encourage people to obtain Chicago Cards, the CTA waived its $5 fee from Dec. 1 through March. Since then Chicago Card sales have soared. Last month, 26,682 cards were sold, said Gaffney. About 18,000 were ordered over the Internet, she said. Anticipating the surge, the CTA looked at how many cards it sold when the $5 fee was waived in the past and ordered more, Gaffney said. It also hired temporary workers to process them as quickly as possible, she said.

    And to help distribute the cards fairly, some outlets won't be able to get their entire order filled, she said.

    "Some people might be requesting a much larger inventory than they might sell immediately or distribute immediately," she said. "What we are trying to do is not stockpile but make sure that no one gets caught without any."

    Dominick's ran into that issue this week when its stores ran out of the cards. When the company ordered more, the CTA said it would not be able to fulfill the entire order, Dominick's spokeswoman Wynona Redmond said. She would not say how many cards the company requested.

    "It sounds like a supply and demand issue," she said. "We've got an order in, and we are waiting for it to be fulfilled."

    Gaffney said Dominick's placed the order Wednesday and the CTA shipped it 500 cards Thursday. Another 500 cards will be shipped by Monday, she said.

    Gaffney cautioned that not every store that sells CTA fare media also sells the Chicago Card. A list of the outlets can be found on the "Fares" section of the CTA's Web site at www.transitchicago.com. She advised people to call ahead to make sure the cards are in stock.

    That's what Rogers Park resident Margaret Sampson has been doing since she visited a currency exchange in her neighborhood and was told there were no cards left. But she still hasn't located a nearby vendor that has them in stock and is reluctant to order a card online because she doesn't want to share personal information with the CTA.

    "It's just really aggravating," she said. "It's like you're making a product necessary but you're not providing it."

    Some outlets like the Jewel store at 3531 N. Broadway anticipated the rush and ordered hundreds of the cards, enabling them to meet the demand, an employee said.

    But other stores said the cards previously have been slow to sell so they didn't bother asking for more.

    "I ordered one [in the past] and it took me six months to sell that one card, so I wasn't that quick to order them again," said Dwanna King, manager of the 83rd & Prairie Currency Exchange.

    That meant the business wasn't carrying any cards this week when people began asking for them, even though it is on the CTA's list of Chicago Card vendors.

    "I just ordered some yesterday because everyone was calling for them," King said.

    Steven Kaleel, president of Certified Foods at 1906 W. 69th St., said he returned a batch of Chicago Cards in early December because they weren't selling. Now he regrets that decision. "They are coming in and asking for them like crazy," he said. "If I had had them, I would have sold out."



    Copyright 2006, Chicago Tribune

  2. #2
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
    Dec 2003
    Downtown Atlanta
    MARTA is in the process of rolling out a smart card called Breeze. It will replace the old paper monthly/weekly passes, tokens, and transfers. Buses will continue to take cash in addition to the new Breeze card.

    I haven't heard anything about it being hard to use for the poor. The initial trials are underway at a station in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city and from what I hear, things are going well. I suspect in Chicago's case that issue was being pushed by a handful of activist and their followers were just blindly repeating the message.

    Our current fare gates are in such a poor state of repair (the vendor stopped supporting them years ago so parts have to be custom tooled) that I suspect that no one is going to complain about the new system.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  3. #3
    Mar 2004
    Chicago, IL
    Yay for U-Pass.

    I think lots of stations aren't even taking cash anymore, or it'll be that way soon

  4. #4
    I think it's a great idea; you only pay for what you use.
    The MBTA is in the next stage of rolling out its Charlie Card, along with updated turnstiles that eliminate fare evasion. It's been slow to catch on; people still haven't gotten the hang of the fact that when the card is empty of value more can be added to it. They throw the cards away. A monthly smart card will be introduced once the old turnstiles and tokens have been completely phased out. The new turnstiles are what has riled people more than the new fare method. Since jumping over it is more difficult Transit employees have been involved in confrontations with people who are hopping mad that they have to pay now. Never mind that they've had decades to evade the fare. Sheesh.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    Quote Originally posted by Everyman
    Yay for U-Pass.

    I think lots of stations aren't even taking cash anymore, or it'll be that way soon
    ISTR that every CTA station will have machines that sell farecares for cash.


  6. #6
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
    May 2003
    City of Low Low Wages!
    Train stations have not taken cash for some time now, except one turnstile where you can stick coins in it, otherwise you've had to go to the vending machines (which, yes, are in every station) and get a card.

    Raising the base cash fare has been an option for a long time, but the CTA has always argued against it based on the accessibility argument. Many low-income people are bus riders who don't live close to rail stations (where they can use the vending machines) so the fare increase hits them hardest.

    The situation now though is that you get sacked with a $2.00 fare if you use cash or a magnetic card from the vending machines. You have to have an RF "smart" card, which must be bought in advance, (or some sort of reduced fare media like U-Pass) to get the old $1.75 fare.
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
    http://hafd.org/~jordanb/ Pretentious Weblog.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Dharmster's avatar
    Oct 2001
    Arlington, Virginia
    Quote Originally posted by jordanb

    The situation now though is that you get sacked with a $2.00 fare if you use cash or a magnetic card from the vending machines. You have to have an RF "smart" card, which must be bought in advance, (or some sort of reduced fare media like U-Pass) to get the old $1.75 fare.
    Yes, but the RF card is now being given away. Plus one version can be linked to a credit card or checking account so that it never runs out. I think they need a way for people to add value at more places so that the really poor (who have neither a checking account or a credit card) are not penalized.

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