Facts at a Glance

CTA Facts at a Glance

(as of April 2011, except where otherwise noted)

Service Overview

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system. On an average weekday, 1.6 million rides are taken on CTA. The CTA is a regional transit system that serves 35* suburbs, in addition to the City of Chicago, and provides 83 percent of the public transit trips in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area either with direct service or connecting service to Metra and Pace.

CTA has 1,781 buses that operate over 129* routes and 1,959 route miles. Buses make about 19,709 trips a day and serve 11,493 posted bus stops.

On the rapid transit system, CTA’s 1,200 rail cars operate over eight routes and 224.1 miles of track. CTA trains make about 2,145 trips each day and serve 145* stations.

Chicago is one of the few cities in the world that has rail service to two major airports. CTA’s Blue Line ‘L’ can take customers to O’Hare International Airport. Orange Line trains, which operate clockwise on the Loop ‘L’ structure, travel to Midway Airport.

CTA also provides around-the-clock service on certain routes. During late night and early morning hours, major rail lines and some of CTA’s bus routes offer “Night Owl” service, much of it with connecting schedules and routing.

*Count updated December 2012


The Chicago Transit Authority is an independent governmental agency created by state legislation. CTA began operating on Oct. 1, 1947, after it acquired the properties of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and the Chicago Surface Lines. On Oct. 1, 1952, CTA became the predominant operator of Chicago transit when it purchased the Chicago Motor Coach system.

Governance & Oversight

The governing arm of CTA is the Chicago Transit Board. Terry Peterson serves as chairman. The board consists of seven members, four appointed by the Mayor of Chicago and three by the Governor of Illinois.

The Mayor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Governor and the Chicago City Council; the Governor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Mayor and the Illinois State Senate. CTA’s day-to-day operations are directed by Forrest Claypool, president.

CTA generates revenue from both farebox collections and non-farebox revenues, and also receives supplemental funding for operating expenses through the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).

The RTA was established in 1974 to oversee local transportation operators in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area. Illinois state law requires the three RTA service boards— CTA, Metra (the suburban rail system) and Pace (the suburban bus system) — to recover collectively at least 50 percent of operating costs from farebox and other system revenues. The CTA recovery ratio for 2010 was 56.62 percent.


Service Area

Area served by CTA Chicago and 35 suburbs*
Service population 3.8 million
(based on 2000 Census)
2011 Operating budget $1.338 billion
2011 Capital budget $649.6 million

*As of December 2012



Average Weekday (2010)  
Bus 973,061
Rail 641,261
Total system 1.64 million


Annual (2010)  
Bus 306.02 million
Rail 210.85 million
Total system 516.87 million


Route Statistics

Bus route miles 1,959
Bus miles traveled per day 145,832
Rail track miles 224.1
Rail miles traveled per day 177,490
Miles of elevated structure 35.8
Miles of 'L' at grade level 35.0
Miles of 'L' embankment, etc. 20.6
Miles of subway 11.4
Clearance range of 'L' structure in the Loop 13'3"-19'4"


Number of...

Buses 1,781
Bus routes 129**
Bus stops 11,493
Rail cars 1,200
Rail lines 8
Rail stations 145*
Employee positions 9,377

*As of Summer 2012
**As of December 2012


Important transit dates in Chicago

Horse car service began Apr. 25, 1859
Cable car service began Jan. 28, 1882
First electric streetcars Oct. 2, 1890
First rail line June 6, 1892
Loop Elevated opened Oct. 12, 1897
First motor bus service Mar. 25, 1917
Trolley bus service began Apr. 17, 1930
State Street Subway opened Oct. 17, 1943
CTA became operating entity Oct. 1, 1947
Dearborn Subway opened Feb. 25, 1951
Last streetcar ran June 21, 1958
Skokie Swift service began Apr. 20, 1964
Expressway median operation:  
  - Congress (Eisenhower) June 22, 1958
  - Dan Ryan Sept. 28, 1969
  - Kennedy Feb. 1, 1970
Rail service to O'Hare Sept. 3, 1984
Rail service to Midway Oct. 31, 1993
Rail line names switched to colors Feb. 21, 1993
Fare Cards introduced August 18, 1997
Pink Line service began June 25, 2006


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System Status



Red Line Planned Work
Blue Line Normal Service
Brown Line Normal Service
Green Line Normal Service
Orange Line Normal Service
Purple Line Normal Service
Pink Line Normal Service
Yellow Line Normal Service


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