People learning about our history at Daley Plaza

Facts at a glance

Fall 2017

Service overview

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system. On an average weekday, 1.6 million rides are taken on CTA. The CTA is a regional transit system that serves 35 suburbs, in addition to the City of Chicago, and provides 81 percent of the public transit trips in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area either with direct service or connecting service to Metra and Pace.

CTA has 1,864 buses that operate 129 routes and 1,536 route miles. Buses make about 19,237 trips a day and serve 10,768 bus stops.

On the rapid transit system, CTA’s 1,492 rail cars operate eight routes and 224.1 miles of track. CTA trains make about 2,318 trips each day and serve 145 stations.

Chicago is one of the few cities in the world that has rail service to two major airports. CTA’s Blue Line ‘L’ can take customers to O’Hare International Airport. Orange Line trains, which operate clockwise on the Loop ‘L’ structure, travel to Midway Airport.

CTA also provides around-the-clock service on certain routes. During late night and early morning hours, major rail lines and some of CTA’s bus routes offer “Night Owl” service, much of it with connecting schedules and routing.

Organization

Chicago Transit Authority is an independent governmental agency created by state legislation. CTA began operating on Oct. 1, 1947, after it acquired the properties of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and the Chicago Surface Lines. On Oct. 1, 1952, CTA became the predominant operator of Chicago transit when it purchased the Chicago Motor Coach system.

Governance & oversight

The governing arm of CTA is the Chicago Transit Board. Terry Peterson serves as chairman. The board consists of seven members, four appointed by the Mayor of Chicago and three by the Governor of Illinois.

The Mayor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Governor and the Chicago City Council; the Governor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Mayor and the Illinois State Senate. CTA’s day-to-day operations are directed by Dorval R. Carter, Jr., president.

CTA generates revenue from both farebox collections and nonfarebox revenues, and also receives supplemental funding for operating expenses through the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).

The RTA was established in 1974 to oversee local transportation operators in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area. Illinois state law requires the three RTA service boards— CTA, Metra (the suburban rail system) and Pace (the suburban bus system) — to recover collectively at least 50 percent of operating costs from farebox and other system revenues.

 

Statistics & information

Service area

Area served by CTA Chicago and 35 suburbs
Service population 3.5 million
(based on 2010 Census)
2017 Operating budget $1,524.2 million
2017 Capital budget $1,282.5 million

 

Ridership

Average Weekday (2016)  
Bus 826,322
Rail 759,866
Total system 1.59 million

 

Annual (2016)  
Bus 259.1 million
Rail 238.6 million
Total system 497.7 million

 

Route statistics

Bus route miles 1,536
Bus miles traveled per day 161,192
Rail track miles 224.1
Rail miles traveled per day 233,906
Miles of elevated structure 35.8
Miles of 'L' at grade level 35.0
Miles of 'L' embankment, etc. 20.6
Miles of subway 11.4
Clearance range of 'L' structure in the Loop 13'3"-19'4"

 

Number of...

Buses 1,864
Bus routes 129
Bus stops 10,768
Rail cars 1,492
Rail lines 8
Rail stations 145
Employee positions 9,939

 

Important transit dates in Chicago

Horse car service began Apr. 25, 1859
Cable car service began Jan. 28, 1882
First electric streetcars Oct. 2, 1890
First rail line June 6, 1892
Loop Elevated opened Oct. 12, 1897
First motor bus service Mar. 25, 1917
Trolley bus service began Apr. 17, 1930
State Street Subway opened Oct. 17, 1943
CTA became operating entity Oct. 1, 1947
Dearborn Subway opened Feb. 25, 1951
Last streetcar ran June 21, 1958
Skokie Swift service began Apr. 20, 1964
Expressway median operation:  
  - Congress (Eisenhower) June 22, 1958
  - Dan Ryan Sept. 28, 1969
  - Kennedy Feb. 1, 1970
Rail service to O'Hare Sept. 3, 1984
Rail service to Midway Oct. 31, 1993
Rail line names switched to colors Feb. 21, 1993
Fare Cards introduced August 18, 1997
Pink Line service began June 25, 2006
Ventra fare system completed July 1, 2014