By Tracy Swartz @tracyswartz
2:10 PM CST, November 26, 2012
About a quarter of a million travelers were expected to pass through O'Hare on Sunday as the holiday weekend drew to a close. It's days like those that will be a windfall for the CTA next year—but more expensive for some Chicagoans and their families.
The agency last week proposed CTA riders pay $5 to hop on the Blue Line from O'Hare. Riders with 30-day passes and other unlimited cards would be exempt from this surcharge, but passengers who pay per ride, either through Chicago Cards or fare cards preloaded with cash, would have to pony up the extra $2.75.
Riders who use Midway would not see a surcharge, under the CTA's plan. The proposed hike is one of a few fare increases the CTA pushed last week, including increasing the cost of a 30-day unlimited pass from $86 to $100.
The CTA said it needs this money to "shore up its finances ... and ensure future fiscal stability." CTA board chairman Terry Peterson last week promised that CTA riders would not see any additional fare hikes through 2015.
For now, though, the CTA is asking for more money for service that isn't reliable.
Nearly 13 percent of the Blue Line is under slow zone--up from 4.9 percent in slow zones at this time last year, according to CTA slow zone maps.
About a year ago, the CTA was awarded a $16 million federal grant to fix slow zones between O'Hare and downtown. The agency tackled Blue Line slow zones four years ago in a cumbersome project that required partial line shutdown and shuttle buses.
Passengers at the O'Hare station, which has logged about 3 million rides this year, don't have much choice when it comes to public transit.
Unlike the Midway Orange Line station, which is served by eight bus routes during the day, there are no CTA buses at the O'Hare station.
There is a Metra stop located in a remote O'Hare parking lot. The train, along the North Central line, costs $4.75 per ride.
The Metra train is supposed to take about 40 minutes to travel from O'Hare to Union Station. A Blue Line train from O'Hare to the Clinton station, the closest CTA stop to Union Station, is supposed to take about 45 minutes during rush hour.
Still, the Metra service only runs about 10 times a day and not on the weekend, while Blue Line service runs 24 hours.
There is some Pace bus service at O'Hare. The No. 250-Dempster Street route travels between the airport, the Des Plaines Metra station and the Davis station on the Purple Line for $1.75 per ride. The No. 330-Mannheim route travels between the airport and a Metra station in LaGrange.
If these options leave Blue Line riders feeling blue, they can voice their opinions about the proposed hikes at hearings at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake St.; and at 6 p.m., Dec. 17 at Westinghouse College Prep, 3223 W. Franklin Blvd.
The CTA board is expected to vote on these proposed fare increases Dec. 18 at its monthly board meeting. If approved, the hikes would go into effect in mid January.
Holiday Train spotting
The annual CTA Holiday Train continues its run Wednesday on the Green Line. Thursday through Saturday, it's on the Orange and Brown lines. Spot the train? Snap a photo and send to email@example.com or post it to Twitter and tag it with #holidaytrainspotting for GP's annual holiday train gallery.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Clinton Blue Line
The Clinton Blue Line station on the Near West Side is all dressed up for the holidays. The station, which recently saw a visit from CTA's traveling cleaning-and-fix-up crew, has better signage, brighter lighting and cleaner walls. The station is close to Union Station and the Greyhound station, so for some travelers, this is the face of the city. Let's keep her in her holiday best—all year-round.
Next up: Ashland/63rd Green LineWant more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.
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