Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday addressed the CTA's recently announced pass fare hike, urging riders unhappy with the price increase to simply consider the alternative: Driving.
While the CTA's new budget keeps single-ride fares the same, it will drastically increase multi-day fares in addition to introducing an additional $2.75 surcharge for Blue Line commuters departing from O'Hare International Airport. One-day passes will increase in price from $5.75 to $10 -- a nearly 75 percent increase -- while three-day passes will go from $14 to $20, weekly passes from $23 to $28 and 30-day passes from $86 to $100.
But Emanuel defended the increased prices of multi-day passes by pointing out that they are still a bargain relative to driving, NBC Chicago reports. He further lauded the CTA for making "the right choices" by opting for the price increases.
"Now you, as a commuter, will pick," the mayor said Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "You can either drive to work or you can take public transportation, and the standard fare will stay the same."
The comments have already inspired a satirical Twitter account: @RahmSaysDrive. (Scroll down to read Chicagoans' Twitter reactions to the mayor's remark.)
The mayor also pointed out Monday that single-ride fares remain the same under the CTA's spending plan and will continue to do so through 2015.
"Fares stay the same. The basic fare stays the same, which you cannot say about gas prices," Emanuel said.
On Gapers Block, Ramsin Canon points out the elephant in the room in his astutely-titled "Let Them Drive Cars!" piece:
So to say people upset with fare hikes can just go ahead and drive is... ill advised, I guess. … Many people don't have that option. They take the bus because they must -- either they don't own a car, share a car, can't afford the gas, or can't pay for parking (more on that in a bit). And from the point of view of a supposed Millionaire's Mayor, weekly passes may seem to be something that tourists buy, thus raising their cost a way to milk out-of-towners. But they're also purchased by people who can't afford to pay for a monthly pass in one shot, even if they'd ultimately save money, because they rarely have that much free cash on hand.
Kevin O'Neil on the CTA Tattler also took the mayor to task for his curious defense of the fare hikes:
I truly hope he was joshing us, because very few commuters really CAN make that choice. Emanuel knows parking a car in the Loop alone is out of reach of many Chicagoans. So they most certainly will NOT make that choice.
The CTA's 2012 operating budget faced a $277 million deficit and the agency last increased fares in 2009.