CTA Ridership Remains Stable During Three-Track Operation

April 12, 2007

Customers Choose to Leave Early, Late or Alternate

In the second week of three-track operation at the Belmont and Fullerton stations, CTA officials reported that ridership levels in the corridor have remained essentially stable, with some rail customers adjusting their commute times and many others switching to bus service.

Preliminary bus and rail ridership data from week one indicates that although rail ridership in the corridor declined during rush periods, the losses were offset by increased bus ridership and shifts in commuting times. CTA President Frank Kruesi said that over the first week, ridership in the corridor was only down by an average of 2 percent.

Complete data is not yet available, but preliminary rail data indicates that rail ridership in the corridor rose an average of 10 percent this week, compared to last week, as customers returned from the holiday period. In fact, on Tuesday, April 10, systemwide ridership was 1.6 percent higher than a typical March weekday. Rail ridership was 12,000 rides higher than the average day in March and bus ridership was 10,300 rides higher. These statistics suggest that many customers heeded CTA's advice to ?Leave Early. Leave Late. Alternate."

?We expect that our customers will continue to make adjustments as they adapt to three track service. And we, in turn, will continue to monitor ridership and customer travel patterns in areas impacted by three track and adjust the levels and locations of supplemental service as we monitor its need," Kruesi said.

During the first week of three-track operation, rail ridership was down 13 percent (5,778 rides) during the morning rush period, compared to spring break last year, but bus ridership was up 15 percent (3,787 rides). In the evening rush period, rail ridership was down 7 percent (4,042 rides) and bus ridership increased by 13 percent (3,325 rides).

"When spring break is factored in and we compare last week's ridership to last year's ridership during spring break, the difference is negligible," said Kruesi.

?During the morning rush, combined bus and rail ridership was 3 percent lower (1,991 rides) compared to spring break last year, and evening rush was only 1 percent lower (717 rides).

According to last week's ridership statistics, it appears many Red Line customers switched to nearby lakefront express bus routes. Ridership decreased on the Brown Line, and along the Red Line from Howard to Wilson. There were also drops in ridership at the Damen Brown Line station and the Main Street Purple Line station. Both of these stations are in close proximity to Metra's UP-North Line service, which increased service levels to help accommodate North Side customers.

Ridership increased at the Paulina and Belmont stations on the Brown Line, and at the Addison Red Line station due to the temporary closure of the Southport Brown Line station which went into effect on April 2, the same day three-track operation began. It also appears that customers who had previously boarded the Brown Line at Wellington and Diversey are now choosing to board at Belmont or Fullerton where they have a choice of Brown, Red or Purple Express trains.

"These migrations show that our customers looked at all the transit options available to them and many adjusted their commutes accordingly," added Kruesi. ?I would say that the fact that our customers were well informed of the impact on service and responded is largely responsible for the smooth operation, as well as the dedicated effort of thousands of CTA employees to keep things moving."

Kruesi thanked the news media for their assistance in informing the public.

"Although we experienced a handful of glitches with equipment and signals, they were normal for a system that provides 1.5 million rides a day. We had contingency plans in place and were able to avoid any major disruptions to rush hour service," said Kruesi. ?Although it is going well, I caution customers and CTA employees alike not become complacent and expect that the system will continue to operate without an occasional incident. That is just not realistic with a system of this size and level of service."

Kruesi added that as the transit ridership growth trend continues, crowding during rush hour will continue to be the norm, as it was prior to three track operation.

CTA will continue to station personnel at key locations throughout the corridor to quickly respond to service or equipment issues and to monitor service levels.

For example, after analyzing service intervals during the first week and the rate at which trains traveled through the three-track zone, a determination was made that the rail system could accommodate an additional Brown Line train during the evening rush period without slowing Red or Purple Express service. The additional Brown Line train was added back to evening rush hour on Monday.

The ridership trends in the first two weeks indicate that bus ridership has been strong on the expected routes, but there has been enough capacity that not all of the extra buses set aside have been needed, particularly in the morning rush. Bus operations staff are actively monitoring bus ridership patterns in the corridor so that buses are deployed in the areas where they are needed most. Adjustments are being made on a daily basis and will continue as patterns emerge.

CTA also reminds customers that five common commuter courtesies will help contribute to a faster, more efficient ride for everyone. These include:

  • Have your fare ready.
  • On rail cars, move to the center. On buses, move to the rear.
  • Customers waiting to board should allow passengers to exit first.
  • On buses, exit through the rear doors.
  • Avoid blocking doors as they close.

The CTA's web site, transitchicago.com, and the ctabrownline.com site have information pertaining to the three-track project.

The Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project is designed to relieve congestion, provide for future growth by increasing capacity, and improve service delivery, safety and customer comfort. Since 1979, Brown Line ridership has increased approximately 83 percent. The project will also make the Brown Line accessible to all CTA customers, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

The $530 million project remains on time and on budget. As of today, four stations (Kimball, Francisco, Kedzie and Rockwell) have been renovated and reopened ahead of schedule.

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