If you were given an unlimited-use Ventra card for free, how often would you ride the CTA?
If you're CTA board chairman Terry Peterson, the answer would be 17 times in eight months. If you're veteran CTA board member Alejandro Silva, it would be five times. If you're longtime CTA board member Rev. Charles Robinson, it would be zero times.
About half of the seven-member CTA board rode the system regularly from August to April, according to information Going Public obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request for the number of times CTA board members and officials used their CTA-issued Ventra cards in the eight-month period following the inception of CTA's new fare payment system.
In August, CTA board members and staff were among the first riders to receive Ventra cards. Board members and staff ride the system for free.
President Forrest Claypool used his CTA-issued Ventra card to ride the CTA 114 times between August and April. That averages out to a ride about every other day.
"[Claypool] takes it a couple of times a week. His schedule varies but he does take the system regularly," said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase, adding that sometimes Claypool uses his personal Ventra card.
Peterson rode the CTA about once every two weeks. That is an improvement for him. In 2010, about six months into his first term as CTA board chairman, Peterson told GP he had not taken the CTA in a couple of years.
Other board members fared better. Longtime board member Jacky Grimshaw rode 92 times while Kevin Irvine and Ashish Sen, who were both appointed to the board in 2012, logged 370 and 161 rides, respectively. A seventh board member, retired Chicago Police Sgt. Robert Lewis, began his tenure earlier this year.
Board members did not return a request for comment made through a board liaison, but in the past, they have said presentations during monthly board meetings and other CTA material have helped inform their decisions, instead of just riding the system.
On Thursday, Irvine and Sen talked to riders at a hearing over the controversial proposed bypass near the Belmont stop in Lakeview.
The CTA says the bypass would ease Brown, Red and Purple line train travel. Residents are complaining, though, because the agency has targeted 16 buildings for demolition due to the project.
Irvine and Sen said they have not yet formed opinions on the proposed $320 million flyover.
Mayor Emanuel has voiced his support for the bypass. He says he is a regular Brown Line rider but his Ventra card is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests because he pays for it.
Emanuel staffers say the mayor's card is registered, unlike his Chicago Card, which was not. Registered cards can be tracked if they are lost or stolen.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Cicero Green Line
This Austin station has quite a few amenities, including two elevators, a bike rack near the turnstiles and Dunkin' Donuts on the bottom floor of the stationhouse, but there were no train trackers on the platform when GP visited Friday. Since train arrival information wasn't readily available, some riders were leaning their heads over the tracks to see if they could see an eastbound train. This is a dangerous practice that can lead to accidents. Regular announcements over CTA loudspeakers would help curb this practice.
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