Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘CTA

In Chicago, a sophisticated new rail fare system that doesn’t work

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I was just going to tweet this story, but sometimes that limited number of characters just will not do.

The story can be found on Marketplace – not the CBC tv programme of the same name. This one is on National Public Radio.

The parallels to Translink’s Compass fare card are eerily similar. For start the contractor is the same one – Cubic. Marketplace also compares the system to Obamacare – where the web page to sign up for the new health care system was rushed into use long before it was ready for prime time. That seems to be the case in Chicago too.  And, as here, the union is worried about how its members get the brunt of the passengers – sorry customers – complaints.

Last week, the transit union head demanded that the CTA hold off on the transition, until the kinks got worked out. He said his members were already getting cussed out by enough angry riders.

Are there lessons to be learned here or is the process here too far advanced? What does seem to be different is the management of the issue. The CTA is apologizing – and it is not paying Cubic until the system is actually working properly. And the old system is staying in place until it does. Translink has acknowledged that the beta testing showed up some issues – and others – like the pay cash as well as buy a ticket “solution” for the lack of swipe reader on the gates problem – are simply ignored. The user is simply told to get with the program.

I think our real problem was that gates on SkyTrain/Canada Line/SeaBus were never actually necessary – but Translink staff have been eager to get away from 3 zones to pay by distance and added smart cards to what was already a seriously flawed concept. There are ways to introduce new fare media and systems that are both graceful and flexible. Chicago learned the hard way why those qualities should not be ignored. Will Translink learn the same lesson the same way?

One very odd feature about the story – the headline identifies Ventra as a “new rail fare system” but the story is illustrated by a picture of a bus.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 7, 2013 at 8:43 am

The Monday Collection

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Quite a haul of transit stories today.

First up The Province has an op ed from Ian Bruce, a climate-change specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation. He has picked up on the idea that using the existing capacity on the SkyTrain bridge between Columbia and Scott Road could provide more people carrying ability than “20 lanes worth of traffic across the Fraser River”


SkyBridge, Patullo Bridge, New Westminster Rail Bridge 2004_0517

Over in Ontario, that province is looking a cutting back on its Environmental Assessment process to allow for faster implementation of its transit expansion projects. The Toronto Star has an approving column from Christopher Hume.

He says that transit is by definition good for the environment but

the subtext to the whole EA process had little to do with the environment and everything to do with politics. It can be manipulated to reach any conclusion, or prove any point. Mostly, though, it was a very effective way to delay, to stall indefinitely, to put off to the next decade what might cause political discomfort now.

Which is quite a contrast to the EA process we have here now. I would be a bit wary of going in our direction if I were them. But I do have to declare that I once worked on EAs in Ontario – one for the TTC. The “Rapid Transit Expansion Program” did not build much, but Howard Moscoe, a Toronto councillor, observed it was very effective as the consultants’ financial relief program.

TTC 4054 on Spadina 2006_0111

The “Business Newspaper for Suburban Chicago” has a supportive piece on Transit Oriented Development, and it is nice to see this in a business as opposed to a planning publication. Hopefully this will get picked up out in the Valley by some of our business oriented media. It is also nice to see some good news out of Chicago, as the press in recent months has mostly been about the imminent financial collapse of the CTA.

And transit ridership is continuing to grow in New York City.

“The continued investment in new subway cars and buses is not going unnoticed by our customers who are responding by increased usage of our system,” said MTA NYC Transit President Howard Roberts, Jr.

Well that is of course nice to know. Buying more buses and trains gets you more riders. I wonder why that doesn’t occur to our politicians.

Oh, and just to blow my own trumpet a bit, I am on News 1130 right now.



Written by Stephen Rees

February 11, 2008 at 3:00 pm