How to improve CTA traffic flow to Wrigley Field for Cubs games

Getting to Wrigley Field on a Cubs game day can be a trying experience for public transit users.

With that basic fact in mind, the Cubs commissioned Sam Schwartz Engineering to develop a Wrigley Field Game Day Traffic and Parking
Management Plan. It's a very exhaustive study with some great recommendations to improve CTA traffic flow, some of which could be implemented fairly quickly.

First, here are some basic facts from the plan:

  • About 40% of game-goers use CTA rail.
  • Ridership on two Pace buses from Schaumburg and Lombard amounts to about 120 fans per 10,000 fans.
  • There are about 140 fans per 10,000 attendees who take a bus from the remote parking facility at DeVry University.
  • There is no signage at Wrigley to help people get to transit stops, whether they be CTA, Metra or Pace.
  • There are no CTA fare machines other than at the CTA Addison station.
  • The boarding process for the #152 bus on Addison takes 45 to 90 minutes due to passengers paying with cash - despite the fact that a portable fare card station is used at the back door of the bus.
  • The Addison Red Line station is very crowded after games since many people don't purchase fare cards ahead of time.

Recommended improvements

  • Explore the feasibility of installing CTA fare card machines on the sidewalks immediately outside Wrigley Field.
  • CTA passengers, both rail and bus, should be encouraged to purchase their return fare before the game. The Cubs should work with the CTA to develop messaging in the Addison Red Line Station to accomplish this.
  • The Cubs should work with CTA to determine if additional incentives can be provided on the bus, such as free wireless or food, if such incentives encourage more people to use the service.
  • A portion of the Cubs’ website should be overhauled and substantially redesigned to emphasize public transit access as the best way to Wrigley Field.
  • The Cubs should integrate CTA Train Tracker and Bus Tracker widgets into the website so fans can access up-to-date transportation information. Consideration should also be given to developing an application for mobile devices to provide transportation and parking information.
  • Transit fare cards should be offered and promoted for purchase online when Cubs tickets are sold and fare media can be offered as part of a season ticket invoice.
  • Cross promotion of transit fare payment and Cubs ticket sales could be ideally kicked-off with the launch of the new Ventra CTA fare system later in 2013. Ventra accounts could also likely be programmed to enable rides after Cubs games to be charged at discounted rates. Transit options should also be printed on tickets.

Longer term solutions

  • Add post-game express CTA service northbound to Howard. This would reduce travel times from Wrigley Field to Howard by 6 minutes and reduce crowding on Red Line trains and at the Addison Station.
  • Improve the overall configuration and design of the station, including a larger concourse area and additional stairways to the platforms.
  • Upgrade the current exit-only rotogate on the south side of Addison to allow entry with a CTA fare card.
  • Rename the station as “Cubs-Addison” or “Wrigley Field-Addison,” similar to the station adjacent to U.S. Cellular Field being named “Sox-35th.

Here's hoping some of these easier solutions - such as allowing entry at the south side of Addison - can be acted on sooner than later.

And a hat tip to Bob for alerting me to this report.


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  • 1. If the statistics are per 10,000 fans and the usual attendance is 32-36,000 then I suppose that the numbers should be tripled.

    2. Ventra should eliminate the need for CTA fare card machines (unless people are going to buy Ventra cards there). The $3.00 Ventra ticket should certainly discourage people from buying a fare card on leaving the game for the L. Hence, it doesn't appear that one consultant was talking to the other, until one reaches the last item on the Ventra cross promotion.

    3. The tracker widgets constitute a good idea.

    4. I'm surprised that there aren't additional trains at exit time, and trains queued up at both sides of Addison, since the tracks are free except when the Purple Line runs. The trolley books talk about an employee getting a ticket to the game to call out the extra cars as the game ended, but I guess CTA doesn't afford that perk.

    5. The card reader on the rotogate should be a no brainer.

    6. If the Cubs continue to stink the way they have, this will be a less pressing problem, just as the closure of the 35-Sox station wasn't for the Sox.

    7. Speaking of the Addison-Cubs station, I guess that would make sense to distinguish it from the Addison Blue and Brown Line stations, just like Sox distinguishes 35th from the Bronzeville IIT station. On the other hand, given the idea a couple of years ago to sell naming rights (such as Pulaski being the Mrs. T station) should Belmont be renamed the Alderman Stickybuns station?

  • In reply to jack:


    1. Yes, the numbers should be tripled for the most part, but it's still not a lot of people using those shuttles, and Pace buses.

    2. Are you kidding? Tourists and fans who don't regularly use the CTA will have no problem paying the $3 non-Ventra fare. They probably just put $5 or $10 now on the fare card and don't think twice about not using it all.

    4. It might be difficult to queue up trains except before day games and after night games because the Purple Line runs at other times.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    1. I'm surprised that anyone mentioned Pace, but that's only 1 or 2 buses from each location, and not for day games, since the equipment is needed for regular service. If the Cubs are going to get more, they are going to have to hire a charter operator.

    However, the DeVry parking lot was supposedly a condition of getting permission to expand in Wrigleyville, and that raises another question, given that the bus ride is free if the $6.00 parking fee is paid. Certainly, $6.00 parking is not available in Wrigleyville. Besides that obvious question of why it is not attracting more patronage, those 154 trips are definitely contract service, which means that at a minimum, the Cubs should be paying full freight. I didn't see that route on the list of contract routes with regard to which CTA said pay up or lose the service as part of the Crowd Reduction Plan. Otherwise, again the Cubs should hire a charter operator.

    2. I suppose that if they are shelling out for the Cubs and $7.75 Bud Lights, they may shell out for something else, but it would be double stupid to be buying $3 Ventra Tickets while leaving the park.

    4. The Purple Line is only an issue between 3 and 6 weekdays (and stops SB at Addison for games then). If 13,000 use the L each way, that would seem to justify capital improvements, except, of course, unless CTA treats each rider as an operating loss. That concentration of passengers (and as you say, potentially buying Ventra tickets), probably isn't. In any event, the legend on the Purple Line schedule to, in effect, find your way back on the Red Line, shows that CTA isn't accommodating the crowd, which I guess gave rise to the recommendation.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    I checked out the report and I think the statistics for the remote parking and Pace are a little misleading.

    To arrive at the number of passengers per 10,000 using remote parking, they divided the total number using remote parking (40,000) by the total number of patrons at Wrigley Field for the entire season (2,882,756). But the remote parking lot is only open for evening and weekend games. If you want to get an idea of the percentage of fans that choose remote parking, I think it would be more realistic to use attendance on days when the lot is open, rather than attendance for the whole season. But still, the chart does show a downward trend in remote lot usage. It peaked at 57,000 fans (22,083 cars) in 2008 and has steadily gone down every year since.

    Similarly the Pace numbers are misleading because Pace does not operate for weekday day games in April, May, September, and October. (It operates for all games in June, July, and August.) The trend there is mixed, but there was a sharp drop between 2011 and 2012.

    As for Ventra, they have promised that there will be thousands of off-station sales locations available. High traffic places like Wrigley Field seem sensible for at least a few of them. But buses will still accept cash, so I don't see why bus riders would want to pay $3 for a Ventra card rather than put $2.25 into the fare box, unless they need a transfer and are sophisticated enough to know that the $3 card gets them a transfer. (I'm not sure a lot of one-time riders understand the CTA fare structure and stuff like transfers.)

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    Thanks for doing the digging on this one.

    Again, another instance when statistics were misused. I don't buy CTA ones, although I did mention the Pace issue. You are correct that the remote shuttle is only for night games.

  • I have a better idea.
    Stop letting the cops manually control the traffic lights & Irving Park & Clark. And maybe other corners, but I haven't seen it myself.
    They'll let NB Clark stay green for 5-8 minutes at a stretch, but then back up EB Irving to Damen.
    A year or two ago, I was waiting for a NB 22 there & at exactly 6PM, the cop unplugged his manual controller & miraculously, the traffic in all directions flowed better. It was still heavy on NB Clark, but it was not screwed up.
    This is a perfect example of the reverse of Richard J Daley's Malaprop: "The police are not here to preserve disorder, they're here to create disorder."
    They do that excellently here!

  • fb_avatar

    Here's the best idea. Create Wrigley goer bus and trains only so the rest of us don't have to put up with the obnoxious, drunk "fans" and can get where we are going in peace and quiet!

  • In reply to Scott Olson:

    On a related note, check out today's Pearls Before Swine and Shoe, both available on

    Thanks for giving me the opening.

  • Some may enjoy this.....

    CTA control center routinely reminds operators to enter crowded stations at 6 MPH.

  • The CTA also might need to be given reminders of the Wrigley Concerts. On Saturday evening for the concert that was there, the bulk of the fans were coming on the red line via the blue line x-fer at Jackson. Unfortunately I had to work and had the worst ride of my life home on the NB red from Monroe.

    It was about a 12 minute interval for a train and as it rolled in to Monroe from Jackson, the train was reminiscent of those trains in Japan where they use sticks to push people in. These were all tourists and out of towners who don't know how to ride a train so you can imagine how bad it was. A woman was nearly trampled.

    You would THINK at this point of being unsafely overloaded they would run the train express to Addison. Nope, the braindead CTA had zero clue what was going on. At addison, the train took about 5 minutes to empty before it could proceed to Sheridan.

    There really needs to be some kind of heavily advertised method of transit from the Ohare and suburban areas other than the blue to the red. or run express trains/buses.

  • Free food? I don't think that's a good idea. The CTA buses are dirty enough.

  • One of the undertouched issues in the report is how to manage the crowds once they reach the station itself. This is all pretty low-hanging fruit:

    1. Aggressively promote the northern entrance to the station. It never ceases to amaze me when I'm able to breeze in while people are lined up all the way to Sheffield.

    2. From the south, there should be three lines: customers needing to add fares to their card, exact change customers who would be routed to the additional fare gates, and transit card customers who would be routed to the regular turnstyles. From the north, until additional traffic increases, allow one line to the add fares point and one line to the additional fare gates.

    3. Each line should be single file to a single point, then routed to an opening that has only one person about to use it. This allows you to isolate a person who is having difficulty and reflow people rather than having people stuck behind the dummy who brought a ten-dollar bill to pay for three people and can't understand what the problem is (think a bank line instead of a grocery line)

    4. Until the additional machines are installed, have CTA employees selling $2.25 transit cards directly in line for cash customers. This would reduce cash customers (who are usually slower to clear the fare gate than card customers).

    This at least would reduce the traffic jam before the fare gates and allow for smoother traffic flow.

  • In reply to hassgocubs:

    I'm old enough to remember when the CTA employed collectors at locations where there were loads of people on the street so that the bus could be loaded from the rear door.
    I'm sure they could have had a portable reader for farecards & if they don't have one developed for Ventra, they're beyond stupid!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I remember that too.

    Pace has said that they could use a cell phone in paratransit vehicles to read RFID cards, rather than install Ventra readers. If CTA can't figure that out, then your last clause holds.

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