2011 CTA Ridership Reaches Highest Level in Two Decades

March 13, 2012
System improvements helped fuel increases in bus, rail trips
CTA ridership grew by more than 15 million—3 percent—in 2011, with more than 530 million boardings on trains and buses across the city—the highest total in 20 years and one of the highest increases among big-city transit operations across the United States.
In 2011, CTA provided 531,960,253 rides, topping last year’s total of 516,891,783. The 2011 total is the highest number since 1991, when more than 540 million rides were recorded.
“The growth in 2011 ridership shows that the CTA is an increasingly integral part people’s daily lives and emphasizes that there is a real and growing demand for public transit in the city and the suburbs,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool.
The CTA’s 3 percent ridership gain outpaced the average among transit systems across the United States by about 30 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) study of national ridership numbers for 2011, released Monday. The CTA’s rail traffic gains exceeded the national average by more than 50 percent.
Many factors have contributed to the ridership increase, including higher gas prices, Claypool said. But he added that the gains are also due in part to numerous investments CTA has made, particularly on the rail system, to improve the customer experience and make transit an even more convenient and attractive option.
In 2011, the CTA launched multiple projects and programs to improve the cleanliness and appearance of buses, trains and facilities, and safety and security on the system. Among the initiatives:
  • Station renewal program
    Last summer, Mayor Emanuel and President Claypool announced a 12-month initiative to give 100 rail stations a facelift. Renew Crews, consisting of workers from various trades, work together in a SWAT team approach to comprehensively address all the outstanding issues at a station at once – cleaning, repairing and improving rather than the piecemeal approach used previously.
  • CTA Train Tracker
    Launched in 2011, CTA Train Tracker joined CTA Bus Tracker as a valuable tool providing customers real-time arrival information for trains and buses via smartphones, text message, the web and email alerts. 
  • Security cameras/extra police officers
    In 2011, the CTA added nearly 1,800 security cameras at 78 rail stations, completing the work in November, six weeks ahead of schedule. The cameras not only serve to deter crime, but that have aided Police in dozens of arrests. Additionally, CTA is adding 50 extra full-time police officers to the public transportation section.
  • Bus Tracker LED signs
    In September, the Mayor and President Claypool unveiled the first of 400 light-emitting diode (LED) displays to be installed on JC Decaux bus shelters. The displays provide customers with bus arrival information via CTA Bus Tracker.
“Based on the extensive feedback we’ve received from our customers, the jump in ridership shows that our efforts to improve our operations, upgrade our fleet and infrastructure, and focus more on the things that matter most to our customers are having a positive result,” Claypool said.
The CTA’s bus and rail systems both experienced ridership gains: rail was up 5.2 percent, while bus was up 1.4 percent. More than 93 percent of CTA’s 2011 ridership gains occurred since May 2011, with increases each month over the same months in 2010.
On an average 2011 weekday, 1.688 million riders boarded CTA buses and trains, up from 1.644 million in 2010, up 2.7 percent.
The largest jumps in ridership were on weekends, which saw increases of 4 percent on Saturdays (to 1,087,653) and 5.4 percent on Sundays (to 774,137). 
All eight rail lines saw increased ridership. The biggest increase was on the Blue Line, which saw nearly 3.7 million more riders, up 8 percent. The second-biggest increase was on the Brown Line, up more than 2 million riders or 7 percent. 
To keep up with ridership and continue to ensure on-time trips for passengers, the CTA plans a number of system-improvement projects for both bus and rail service.
Improvements to seven deteriorated stations along the Howard branch of the Red Line will begin this year, followed in 2013 by a reconstruction of the tracks along the Dan Ryan Branch and the construction of a new transfer station at Wilson Ave. Blue Line slow zones will also be repaired in 2013.


The CTA will also begin replacement of older series buses this year. Work continues to improve tracks and eliminate slow zones throughout the rail system.
“Now more than ever, it is vitally important that we continue to invest in the infrastructure that will keep the system running smoothly and accommodate more riders,” Claypool said.
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Editor’s Note:  to view the full 2011 CTA ridership report, visit: http://www.transitchicago.com/news_initiatives/ridershipreports.aspx
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