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CTA's 2013 budget proposal calls for increased fares on discount passes, but freezes normal fares

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Some Chicagoans could see their transit fares increased if a proposed budget is approved.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Transit Authority released their 2013 budget proposal, which calls for freezing fares, but increasing the unlimited passes that riders and tourists use to save on repeat rides.

Base fares remain unchanged at $2 for bus and $2.25 for rail. 

The budget proposal, put forth by CTA president Forrest Claypool is estimated to cost $1.39 billion and would maintain current service levels. 

“We would not have asked our customers to accept smaller discounts but for management and labor both doing their part,” said Claypool Tuesday. 

The CTA said the budget reflects a tentative, 4-year labor agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union Locals #241 and #308, which represent CTA bus and rail operators.  The agreement is expected to take $50 million off the CTA’s 2013 budget deficit, which was projected to be a $165 million shortfall. The pass price increases account for another $56 million. The rest is accounted for by changes in management.

"Our labor partners stepped up and helped us bend the cost curve," Claypool said. "The days of the CTA borrowing money to pay operating bills is over. This budget puts the doomsday scenarios of the past behind us."

His comments refer to a budget deficit only three years ago of over $300 millions. He said in 2012 that projected deficits were eliminated due to one-time savings. This year's increase in prices will make up the difference, and he predicted "fiscal stability for many years to come." 

CTA President Forrest Claypool presented his proposed budget Tuesday (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)

The unlimited passes, referred to as discount passes, allow riders unlimited use during a particular timeframe.

The CTA said the 1-day pass is used primarily by tourists, and will now cost $10, up from its current $5.75.

The weekly, 7-day pass will be $28, up from its current $23.

The 30-day, monthly pass will increase from $86 to $100.  The monthly, used commonly by daily commuters, has been an instant sore spot on social media following the announcement.

The only single-ride fare that would increase is one-way tickets beginning at O'Hare Airport. These would be hiked up to $5 under the assumption that most people paying for single rides in from O'Hare are tourists.

CTA said the new pass discounts will bring Chicago closer to an average price for a major U.S. city. In New York, a monthly MetroCard for the MTA runs $104.  In San Francisco, a monthly Fast Pass for adults on the Muni runs $74.

Discounts for CPS students will actually increase by 12 percent.  To encourage school attendance, students currently paying 85 cents will only pay 75 cents.

“This is a sound, fair and forward-looking budget that protects taxpayers and will improve service throughout the CTA system,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.

The new budget includes funds for continuing station improvements and complete reconstruction of the southern portion of the Red Line train. The reconstruction will address aging stations and a slew of slow zones that make travel from 16th to 95th Streets unreliable. 

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