February 7, 2000

The CTA in 1999 experienced the largest ridership increase in almost a quarter century. Figures released at the monthly CTA Board meeting Monday showed that 17.8 million more rides were taken on CTA buses and trains in 1999 than in 1998. It was the second year in a row that ridership increased, and the 1999 gain was more than three times higher than that for 1998.

Ridership reached 441.9 million in 1999, compared to 424.1 million a year earlier. The gain included a 7 percent increase in rail ridership and a 2.9 percent hike for bus. 1997 ridership was 419.2 million. In general, bus ridership accounts for about two-thirds of all trips taken on CTA, compared to one-third by rail.

"It's exciting to be on a ridership roll," said CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. "We?ve just added service to meet the needs of growing ridership on five of our 'L' lines, and we will continue to strengthen service where the demand exists. We are also upgrading service this year with improved train communications, more intensive cleaning of subways, and a whole new group of buses coming on line."

The biggest monthly gain of the year came in August, when 3.2 million more rides were taken than in the same month of 1998. Of the additional trips, 1.7 million were made by bus and 1.5 million by train. On a month-to-month basis, the rate of increase was generally higher for train trips than for bus.

Passes and permits paid for 118.5 million of the rides taken on CTA in 1999, or 84.3 percent more than in 1998. Among the more popular passes used by customers over the past year have been the 7-Day Pass, full and reduced-fare 30-Day Passes, and the U-Passes purchased by area college students.

The passes offer convenience as well as economy, making them effective tools for boosting ridership. Valid for unlimited riding over a week-long period that begins at the customer's convenience, 7-Day Passes were used for 35.1 million rides in 1999. Full-fare 30-Day Passes were used for 19.9 million rides, while reduced-fare 30-Day Passes were used 12.3 million times.

"We?re competing aggressively for customers," said CTA President Frank Kruesi, ?and with our increased ridership has come the federal and state support that is so vital to rebuilding our system and providing added service. With this also comes new challenges to meet increased service demands within our limited resources."

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