Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chicago Card Plus vs U-Pass

Back in April of 2009 I wrote about the crap system the CTA uses to "improve" payment/boarding of their trains and busses.

I have an addendum that I need to add:

If you are a student, and your college participates in the program, you can get a discounted unlimited ride pass called u-pass. However, the u-pass comes in the format of the "disposable plastic magnetic swipe card" instead of the "credit card style prox card." Signing up an average city college to this program effectively converts, to an older/slower technology, thousands of middle income riders that would probably be on mommy-daddy/financial aid financed chicago cards instead. This effectively slows the entire system of boarding on trains and busses and increases maintenance costs - which is really the opposite of the desired effect of the Chicago Card. These plastic magnetic cards are printed with your name and picture, presumable making them difficult to share with your friends or resell - but they could just as easily print up the "slightly" more expensive prox cards and speed transit through their system. They could also make the prox-cards work on an automated system as opposed to the current system where I have to go pickup a new u-pass each quarter/semester as the previous one expires. I guess the figure the cost of the fancier cards is more than the cost of added maintenance and slowness of their buses.

And really, CTA makes more revenue off the u-pass than they would if students paid full fare because ALL students at a participating school are charged the "discounted" fee for the pass and are unable to waive. So the CTA obviously knows that the percentage of people that don't use the pass but are charged for it outweighs the discounts they offer.

Technology and innovative programs are not always improvements!

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