CTA Ridership Jumps More Than 55 percent Since Start of Year

July 8, 2021

Ridership sees 20 percent uptick since May; Customers returning to buses and trains for work, recreation, summer activities—as transit remains an essential part of the City’s reopening

Ridership across the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) rail and bus system has jumped significantly since the start of the year and continues to grow, officials said today, as public transit continues to play a vital role in the city and region’s reopening.

Since January, overall ridership has jumped 56 percent, to 4 million rides a week. Rail ridership—which saw a sharper drop during the pandemic than bus ridership—was up 94 percent in mid-June compared to January, with more than 1.6 million weekly trips.

“There is no question that the CTA service needs to support the return to all the things we used to do,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “Whether you’re getting back to the office or enjoying one of Chicago’s many summertime events, the CTA is ready when you’re ready.”

In recent months, with the City’s gradual re-opening, the CTA has seen some of its biggest gains in ridership. Since May 1, CTA ridership has jumped more than 20 percent, and in the month of June, weekday average ridership was over 600,000, more than double the ridership at the height of the pandemic.

Ridership to and from the Loop has seen the biggest gains of any area of the city, as workers return to the office and downtown events and activities. Since May 1, rail ridership is up 53 percent, while ridership on bus routes primarily serving the Loop was up 41 percent.

As it did throughout the pandemic, the CTA continues provide the highest levels of service, and is committed to continuing its extensive cleaning and disinfecting program, which is among the strongest of any U.S. transit agency. By operating on a full-service schedule, the CTA has the capacity to accommodate additional riders as Chicagoans slowly resume their previous day-to-day activities, including their daily commutes to and from work. And soon students will be returning to in-person classes this fall, which is when the agency expects to see yet another uptick in weekday ridership. 

“Although the City has fully reopened, we remain committed to continuing to provide a clean, healthy and comfortable travel environment,” Carter said. “We’re doing everything we can to roll out the welcome mat for our customers, and reminding them that public transit is the most affordable, efficient and environmentally friendly way to get around,” Carter added.

While ridership is up, it is still well below pre-pandemic levels. Like transit agencies across the country, the CTA is strongly focused on encouraging riders to return to transit.

Over the last several weeks, the CTA launched “When you’re ready, we’re ready!” a comprehensive, multi-faceted campaign to promote ridership and tout the importance of public transit. Among many elements, the campaign includes “Refresh & Renew,” an expanded and accelerated program to improve more than 125 rail stations across the system by the end of the year.

The CTA also introduced a summertime fare promotion, “More Fun, Less Fare,” which offers significant discounts on the most popular multi-ride passes. The already affordable passes dropped even further: $5 for a 1-day, $15 for a 3-day; $20 for a 7-day.

For more info about CTA’s efforts to welcome back customers, visit transitchicago.com/ready

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