Ridership on CTA's bus and rail system has increased in each of the first four months of 2005 despite the uncertainty of public transit funding and the level of service the Chicago Transit Authority will be able to provide come July. For the year, ridership is up 3.7 percent over 2004, the highest year-to-date ridership since 2001.
The most recent ridership figures for April 2005 show a system-wide increase in ridership of 6.7 percent (38.7 million rides) compared to April 2004. Weekdays increased 6.5 percent, Saturdays were up 5.8 percent and Sundays were up 10.1 percent. While weekend ridership has been strong the past two years, the resurgence in the weekday rush-hours is a promising trend.
On weekdays, CTA provided over 1.5 million rides, an increase of over 93,000 rides compared to last year. This growth is a sign that CTA is attracting new and returning customers. These gains are particularly important given CTA's efforts in Springfield to increase funding for regional transit operations.
'strong ridership gains are important, particularly when making the appeal for increased funding for public transit. It clearly demonstrates the demand by customers and the value of public transit to this region," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?For those who don?t use transit and wonder why it matters, consider this: without the growth of 35 million rides on CTA's system since 1997, approximately 5.6 million more hours would be spent by drivers commuting in traffic each year at a cost of $93 million annually to the region."
?The evidence is clear, public transit is critical to the vitality of densely populated areas such as ours. That is all the more reason why everyone in the region should support our efforts to secure funding for public transit," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?Through the combined systems of CTA, Metra and Pace, the Chicago area has one of the most extensive public transit networks in the United States and the goal is to preserve it and continue to add service to meet the demand."
Earlier in the week, the Texas Transportation Institute released its 2005 Urban Mobility Report. Specific to Chicago, the report cited the region as having the second worst traffic congestion in the country. Transit, however, was a bright spot. The report said that the Chicago region's congestion is much less than it would be without the transit system.
Since 1983, the year transit operating funding was last revisited in Springfield, the region was ranked seventh. In that time, the typical peak-hour traveler in the Chicago region has experienced over a 260% increase in time wasted in traffic congestion. The cost of this congestion is estimated to exceed $4.2 billion annually. The other regions that Chicagoland has surpassed in traffic congestion have all increased their transit ridership while, despite recent gains, ridership in the Chicago area has declined by thirty percent over the past two decades.
Transit, on the other hand, reduces congestion costs. The Texas Transportation Institute study concluded that public transportation saves the region over $1.5 billion in congestion costs alone, not to mention additional environmental and economic benefits. The value of transit greatly exceeds the approximately $900 million in operating assistance that transit currently receives from local sales taxes and the state. Investing in transit is a cost-effective tool in reducing this region's traffic congestion.
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