CTA, I-Go launch partnership

  • By Amy Lee
  • Transit reporter
  • October 10, 2008 @ 5:00 PM

CTA officials today announced a single-card access system with the I-Go Car Sharing network. 

The CTA and I-Go in December plan to launch a pilot program to allow Chicago Card Plus users to ride the CTA and unlock their reserved I-Go vehicle with a single, specialized transit card. About 200 I-Go cars are available to rent by the hour at various locations throughout Chicago, including 10 CTA locations.

“Our users are transit riders, and this will allow users to more easily switch back and forth between I-Go and CTA,” said Sharon Feigon, chief executive officer of I-Go Car Sharing.

Radio wave technology inside the cards will allow I-Go users access the city’s buses and trains and also unlock their reserved I-Go cars. Users wave the specialized Chicago Card Plus I-Go card over a card reader positioned in the front windshield of I-Go cars to unlock the car; the card can be waived at a CTA card reader for typical transit rides.

I-Go Car Sharing memberships cost $75, with a $25 annual renewal fee, and per-hour rates range from $6 to $10, Feigon said. I-Go plans to position its cars at eight additional CTA locations in the next few months.

The pilot program, which is scheduled to launch in December, will make 5,000 Chicago Card Plus I-Go cards available for purchase. Registration for the I-Go Chicago Card Plus will take place online.

In other CTA news, the agency today moved forward with review of its $1.324 billion 2009 budget, which calls for across the board fare increases.

“There is no plan B,” Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman said shortly after the meeting of the seven-member transit board. “The law is clear: we have to present a balanced budget. It doesn’t say we can wait and see what happens to the economy.”

The fare hikes are necessary because of a $42 million budget gap stemming from rising fuel, power and labor costs.

In most cases, one-way rides will cost a quarter more in 2009, and those buying daily, weekly or monthly passes will also see increases. The agency also plans to eliminate two- and five-day transit passes.

The fare hikes -- if approved by the transit board and the Regional Transportation Authority – will go into effect in January 2009.

The public get to comment on the proposed transit budget at  6 p.m. on Oct. 29 at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake.

Riders, including Bertha Banks, 62, a butcher’s helper at a grocery store, are unhappy they’ll be paying more for the same level of service.

“I don’t like it, but what can I do? I’ve got to get to work,” said Banks, an Austin resident who rides the 66 Chicago bus to and from her workplace at Madison and Central five times a week. “It wouldn’t bother me so much if we were paying to improve service, but this is just more for the same thing. That doesn’t sit well with me.”

Paul Conley, 43, a room service waiter who takes the 151 bus to work on Michigan Avenue each weekday, agrees.

“No increase is worth it because they can’t run the buses and trains on time,” he said. “I don’t blame them for needing the money, but it bothers me that I’ll pay more when the system is as bad as it is.”

The CTA’s proposed budget cuts a total of 632 jobs from the CTA payroll compared to 2008. Both Huberman and CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown said additional payroll cuts to its workforce would impair the agency’s ability to run the system and that fare hikes are the only way to close the budget deficit.

“We can’t cut and cut and cut labor and still provide a safe and reliable system,” Brown said.

Amy Lee is a Chicago-based journalist. She covers transit issues for the Daily News.