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Emanuel Sticks by CTA Comments

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday stuck by his remarks that commuters can choose whether to drive or take the CTA after fares increase, saying his earlier comments were misinterpreted.

    "What I said is, (it's) a choice. People have a choice between public transportation and private," the mayor said. "If you're coming from O'Hare, you pay $50 for the cab downtown. You can rent a car, which is probably close to that. Or you can take the CTA. That's a choice which is much cheaper."

    Those comments are not much different from what Emanuel said Monday. He was asked then about a CTA budget proposal that will raise prices on transit passes, including the shorter passes good for a few days that often are favored by tourists and business travelers and the 30-day pass many Chicagoans without cars rely on to get to work.

    "Public transportation is different from driving to work. You will make that choice," Emanuel said Monday when asked about the proposed 16 percent bump to the cost of a 30-day pass.

    The mayor's insistence that the CTA pass hikes are not really fare increases, that public transit remains a bargain and that commuters can "make that choice" about whether to drive became water cooler talk and inspired a Twitter account, @RahmSaysDrive.

    Emanuel also argued Monday that his plan isn't really a fare hike because the standard CTA cash fare of $2.25 will remain unchanged, unlike gasoline prices. "Now you, as a commuter, will pick. You can either drive to work or you can take public transportation, and the standard fare will stay the same," he said Monday.

    On Wednesday, Emanuel initially ended a news conference and started to leave a produce company in the Back of the Yards neighborhood where he made an announcement about electric trucks. When a reporter shouted a question about whether he regretted what he said previously about the CTA, the mayor made a rare about-face, returning to the podium to briefly address the topic.

    Emanuel noted that 45 percent of CTA riders pay the standard fare. He said his earlier discussion of the CTA budget proposal was meant to illustrate that the cost of a bus or train ride would be set while consumer prices for things like milk will rise.

    "I did not say or imply that you could just drive," Emanuel said. "I said there's a choice. People choose public transportation because it's competitive against private transportation. That's a choice. And the service is getting better and improved. And that's my intention."

    "I said it in (that) way because I think public transportation is competitive against private transportation, both on price, convenience, service and comfort," the mayor added before again heading for the door. Asked how he was misinterpreted, Emanuel did not return to the podium again.

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