CHICAGO (CBS) — An old, familiar mode of communication was found on the CTA platform at Lake Street.
A payphone. Two of them.
Fewer than 100 remain across the transit system, even though they were supposed to go away years ago.
The payphones might as well be invisible to commuters. But they still work. A local call now costs 50 cents. You can also call Mexico for five minutes for a dollar.
Payphones are not quite extinct, but they are certainly heading the way of the dinosaur. There were more than 2.5 million payphones back in the mid 1990s in the United States.
Today, the number is closer to 100,000.
A company called Pacific Telemanagement is responsible for the payphones on CTA property. Its agreement with the CTA expired years ago.
The CTA doesn’t pay any money to Pacific and Pacific doesn’t give the CTA any revenue either. The CEO of Pacific said phones still around need to be used 100 times or more a month to make them worthwhile.
The quarters are emptied a couple times a year from CTA platforms. Most calls now are credit card or toll free.
People who run out of cell phone minutes or whose batteries die are the main users.
If you want to find a payphone, good luck. There are online directories, but the info is obviously old, with listings for phones near the long defunct TWA and Eastern Airlines ticket counters at O’Hare International Airport.
Payphone use spikes after natural disasters, like the recent California wildfires, when cell towers are down.
Among the most used payphones: the ones at national parks in the summer, where cell service is spotty.