Agency sets new post-pandemic ridership milestones, fueled by region’s reopening and CTA promotional fare discounts
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) ridership continues to increase in 2021, reaching the highest levels since the before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people return to work, school and other activities across the region.
“The fall season is typically our highest ridership period for the year, and in 2021, that tradition has resumed,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “CTA daily ridership has consistently been at or above 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels—one of the strongest among large U.S. transit agencies. As our customers evolve and adapt to the realities of their new schedules and routines, so too will the CTA, but what will remain unchanged is our commitment to provide, affordable, reliable transit service.”
In January 2021, CTA averaged a little more than 400,000 rides on weekdays and roughly 10.8 million rides for the month. Since then, CTA’s system-wide ridership has essentially doubled, with more than 21 million monthly and nearly 800,000 average weekday rides provided during the month of September. Ridership surpassed 800,000 five times in September, reaching a peak of 846,000 riders on September 17, during the Riot Fest music festival in Douglas Park.
Impressively, rail ridership to and from the Loop has nearly tripled since the start of the year with more than 29,300 average weekday rides provided in September, up from an average of 9,800 on weekdays in January 2021.
There are a number of factors behind these changes in CTA ridership, including the extension of the hugely popular “More Fun, Less Fare” promotional discount on CTA’s most popular unlimited ride passes, which have helped shape new travel habits and encourage riders to take CTA for more than just trips to the office.
The pass promotion, introduced Memorial Day weekend and later extended through Nov. 25, helped drive ridership, adding more than 10 million rides during the summer months alone.
In fact, average weekend ridership (Saturday/Sunday/Holidays) is also consistently at 60%-65% of pre-COVID levels, reflecting it’s more than just work and school commuters hopping back on the CTA. Rides taken on CTA for major events in this city this summer and fall have been near or above 2019 ridership levels.
To help continue fostering ridership growth and encourage customers to take CTA for more than just work commuting, the CTA is looking to permanently reduce the price on all of its unlimited-ride passes and eliminate the $0.25 transfer fee as part of its proposed FY2022 budget. More information is at transitchicago.com