At the March Chicago Transit Board meeting, CTA President Frank Kruesi reported that Chicago Transit Authority ridership tracked regional trends and decreased by 2.8 percent in 2003 ? the first decrease in six years. Total ridership for the year reached 444 million for bus and rail combined, or 13.2 million fewer rides than in 2002. The CTA's sister agencies, Metra and Pace, have also reported losses of 1.9 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively. Currently nearly one in 10 Metra customers and four in 10 Pace customers make part of their journeys on CTA.
The decrease follows five consecutive years of CTA ridership gains. From 1997 through 2002, CTA ridership increased by 9.1 percent. Job losses due to the struggling economy appear to be a strong factor in the 2003 decline: the largest decreases were experienced during the weekday rush hours.
January 2004 ridership also declined as a result of the continuing economic slump, a much colder January compared to 2003 and the first CTA fare increase in 12 years. Ridership for the month decreased by 3.3 percent compared to January 2003. Fare models predict ridership loss any time fares increase. The CTA structured its increase to minimize ridership losses and, as anticipated, more customers purchased multi-day passes whose prices remained the same. Use of both the 7-Day Pass and 30-Day Pass increased compared to the prior month. In January 2004, 7-Day Pass use increased by 11 percent and 30-Day Pass use increased by 7 percent over December 2003.
?Although the stagnant economy has contributed to the lag in ridership, we have not been waiting for the economy to rebound to address this issue. We obviously have been working hard to better match service with customer demand," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?We have already seen indications that our efforts are paying off. Enhancements to bus service along Lake Shore Drive resulted in a 1.1 percent increase in ridership among those routes this past fall compared to the prior year. We also saw gains on express routes that we created in 2002-- the #X80 Irving Park Express and the #X55 Garfield Express."
?We will dedicate our efforts to improve our neighborhood facilities and service for customers, the most important elements in maintaining and growing ridership," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?Earlier this year we introduced the Chicago Card PlusTM, an electronic farecard that enables customers to manage their accounts online and makes boarding faster and more efficient. In just two months, nearly 23,000 customers have registered. In 2004, we will continue to seize each and every opportunity to attract more customers to the system."
In addition to bus service improvements, the CTA is currently in the home stretch on its largest capital improvement project to date, the rehabilitation of the Cermak branch of the Blue Line. Several major construction projects designed to improve service and facilities will be getting underway, including rehabilitation of the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line, expansion of capacity on the Brown Line and conversion of the Yellow Line from catenary power to third rail power, making it compatible with the rest of the CTA rail system.
"Over the past six years, the CTA has introduced numerous customer-focused improvements to its service and facilities. We have created new bus routes and added service on existing routes," added Kruesi. ?We have added service on all rail lines and have reopened shuttered rail station entrances. We have also upgraded our fleet and increased our accessibility for customers with disabilities. As a result, ridership increased for five consecutive years and customer satisfaction increased as well. By continuing to focus on meeting customer needs and wisely allocating our resources, we will work toward increasing our ridership."
Brown and Kruesi added that they look forward to continuing to work on regional transportation issues with the Northeastern Illinois Regional Transportation Task Force that was established by the Illinois General Assembly and is chaired by Congressman William Lipinski. Brown and Kruesi, as well as the leadership of Metra and Pace, testified before the Task Force on Friday, March 5.# # #