Ridership on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) continues to grow steadily as Chicago and the surrounding metropolitan region recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and more people fall into their new routines of getting to and from work and using public transit for more occasional trips.
In 2022, CTA annual ridership reached 243.5 million, adding more than 47 million rides from the 2021 annual total of 196 million. CTA bus ridership was 140 million in 2022, growing 19% from 2021. Rail ridership grew 32% in 2022 from 79 million to 104 million.
“As the region continues to emerge from the pandemic, more people are returning to the office and also finding new opportunities to take public transit – from shorter, neighborhood trips to special events throughout the city,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “CTA continues to provide as much service as possible to meet this increasing demand, while also closely watching ridership demand and patterns.”
Notable trends in this steady ridership growth period include a 50 percent increase in ridership on bus routes serving downtown, as more office workers returned to the central business district in 2022. Similarly, Loop elevated and downtown subway stations on Red and Blue lines saw ridership increase between 34% and 49% compared to 2021.
The highest ridership day of the year was Thursday, October 13, 2022, with 953,000 rides,. In general, Fall tends to be the busiest time of year on CTA while Wednesdays and Thursdays are typically two of the busiest days of the week with the new flexible work schedules.
Neighborhood and off-peak ridership also performed well, with the continued return of special events and non-work trips contributing to the growth. Weekend ridership has returned to 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
This momentum of growing ridership has continued in 2023. Most notably, Saturday, March 11 of this year set a record high for Saturday ridership with more than 660,000 rides – an increase of 23% (or 134,000 additional rides) versus the same period last year thanks to the St. Patrick’s Day events.
As transit agencies across the country have experienced, ridership remains below pre-pandemic levels, due in part to new hybrid work schedules and changes in commuting patterns and demand. But the CTA, like its national transit peers, continues to make investments in improving service, modernizing infrastructure, and improving the customer experience to welcome more customers back to transit.