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Transit is the Answer calls for seamless transfers, affordable fares for region’s transit system

May 25, 2023

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This post is one in a series exploring the Agenda for Action and Advocacy in Transit is the Answer, the RTA’s new regional transit strategic plan. Together with our partners, working toward the items on this list will move us closer to the plan’s vision of a public transportation system that is safe, reliable, and accessible that connects people to opportunity, advances equity, and combats climate change.

As the regional entity overseeing Chicagoland’s public transportation network, RTA is committed to making paying for transit more seamless and affordable. Transferring between CTA, Metra, and Pace should be a simple, low-cost process that makes public transportation a first choice for regional travel.

With input from stakeholder working groups, the RTA is working with CTA, Metra, and Pace to implement new strategies to further integrate our public transportation network. Expanding discounted fare programs, simplifying fare structures, and enhancing how riders transfer between services are just a few of the ways our transportation system is becoming more seamless and affordable for riders.

Making transit more affordable

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, CTA, Metra, and Pace have worked to make access to public transit more affordable – prioritizing those who rely on it most.

  • CTA and Pace eliminated transfer fees between buses and trains, making longer trips to areas outside the Loop more affordable.
  • Metra simplified its fare structure to make fares more inexpensive and easier for riders to understand. They now offer day passes priced at $6 or $10 (depending on distance) and a $10 weekend pass.
  • Metra also introduced a $100 Super Saver Monthly Pass for unlimited travel across the system’s 11 lines. Combined with the $30 Regional Connect pass described below, riders who purchase a monthly pass can travel all three systems for $130 per month, a savings for some riders of up to $200 per month compared to previous passes.
  • The Fair Transit South Cook Pilot Program offers South Side and south suburban riders up to 50% off fares on Metra’s Electric and Rock Island lines, and more frequent service on Pace’s Route 352 Halsted bus.
  • The U-Pass Program offers students at participating institutions of learning unlimited travel on CTA buses and trains during the school year.

Seamless transfers between services

Going between rail, bus, and “L” services is now easier than ever, with more improvements in the works.

  • CTA and Pace launched the Regional Connect pass as an add-on to Metra’s monthly pass, offering an integrated, unlimited, and affordable monthly fare product. The Regional Connect Pass makes transfers between transit services quick, easy and affordable.
  • Using the Ventra app, riders can now pay for rides using their Android, iPhone, or Apple Watch devices.
  • Pace approved the launch of the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platform – a Transit trip planning app – to enhance flexibility when riding on multiple service providers. The Transit app functions in over 175 metropolitan areas around the world and will assist Pace with providing real-time updates on bus service and offer riders a smoother transfer experience.
  • This year Metra will begin installation of 650 ticket vending machines at 242 stations, which could accept Ventra payments and support transfer payments, systemwide.

Looking forward

Not only have the transit agencies taken these concrete steps to integrate our transit network but together are looking proactively at new policies to improve access to and the affordability of the system. Ideas from the Transit is the Answer stakeholder working groups include:

  • A systemwide day pass or discounted transfers to remove barriers to travel.
  • A single-ride regional fare instrument to make riding the system easier.
  • Improving coordination with public and private services to address first and last mile transit trips to expand access to riders.
  • Revaluate distance-based fares based on equity concerns.

The Agenda for Advocacy and Action in Transit is the Answer lays out a path to position the system for long-term success by seeking new funding, making improvements for riders, and supporting communities working to increase transit access.

Leadership from a diverse group of elected officials and community leaders is needed to achieve meaningful change. Join our coalition to advance this agenda and improve transit for the future.

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Tagged in: Transit is the Answer | CTA | Metra | Pace | RTA

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