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Mayor says remarks on choosing to drive were misinterpreted

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today refused to back away from his remarks that commuters can choose whether to drive or take the CTA when fares increase, instead saying his earlier comments were misinterpreted.

"What I said is, (it's) a choice. People have a choice between public transportation and private," the mayor said. "If you're coming from O'Hare, you pay $50 for the cab downtown. You can rent a car, which is probably close to that. Or you can take the CTA. That's a choice which is much cheaper."

That’s not much different from Emanuel’s comments Monday, when he was asked  about a proposed CTA budget that will raise prices on transit passes, including shorter passes of a few days often favored by tourists and business travelers and the 30-day pass many Chicagoans rely on to get to work.

"Public transportation is different from driving to work. You will make that choice," Emanuel said Monday when asked about the increase to the 30-day pass.

The mayor's insistence that the CTA hikes are not really fare increases, that public transit remains a bargain and that commuters can "make that choice" about whether to drive became conversation fodder and inspired a Twitter account @RahmSaysDrive.

Emanuel also pointed out then that the standard CTA fare of $2.25 will remain unchanged under the budget, unlike gasoline prices. "Now you, as a commuter, will pick. You can either drive to work or you can take public transportation, and the standard fare will stay the same," Emanuel said Monday.

Today, the mayor noted that 45 percent of CTA riders pay the standard fare, and said his earlier comments were meant to illustrate that cost of a bus or train ride would be set while other consumer prices like gas and milk rise.

"I did not say or imply that you could just drive," Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference. "I said there's a choice. People choose public transportation because it's competitive against private transportation. That's a choice. And the service is getting better and improved. And that's my intention."

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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