CTA ridership down slightly in 2009; but 11.7% growth over 10 years

Overall ridership in 2009 dropped about 1% in 2009 over the 2008 figure, but still recorded more than half a billion rides — 521.2 million.

Meanwhile, ridership over the last decade increased by 11.7% — from about 467 million in 1999 to last year’s 521 million.

In both 2009 and over the last 10 years, rail ridership showed more growth than bus rides. Rides on the rails were up by 2.2% in 2009 over 2008, as opposed to a 2.9% drop in bus rides during the same period.

In the last decade, bus ridership grew by 6.6% while rail rides increase by 21.7%. During this time the Brown Line expansion project was finished, the Pink Line added, and the Yellow Line added weekend service.


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  • 500 million riders = 1 billion dollars and the CTA is broke. Something is very wrong here.

  • In reply to leobaz:

    Your math is wrong.
    500 million riders, maybe only 50% pay full fare = $500 million. Could be even less, I don't know the breakdown between full & half fare riders.
    Of the remaining 250 million rides, maybe income of $200 million.
    50 million free rides to seniors & low income disabled.
    Then some of the costs.
    200 articulated buses bought & paid for & inoperable due to frame defects.
    Huge, out of control costs for labor.
    Too many highly paid do-nothing jobs on Jefferson St.
    Policies that drive away riders rather than attract them.
    Such as large capital spent to rebuild the Blue Line, while the entire North Main of the Red Line crumbles & drives away riders due to its slowness, even though it carries twice the riders of the Blue.
    But since it isn't the prestige run to O'Hare, it doesn't really count!

    There's so much more basic incompetence at the CTA, but I just don't have the time to detail it here, it would take a few days of typing!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Scooter is right. The CTA says the collect just under $1 per ride.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Also, Scooter left out that a ride is an "unlinked trip," not a boarding fare. So even if you use a Transit Card, including the 25% and free transfer, that's 3 rides for $2.25. I'm sure very few riders plunk down $2.25 in cash to get no transfer.

    Then pile on the free rides and half price rides noted by Scooter.

    The CTA says its operating budget is about $1.27 billion. Fares and passes are about $525M. So, choochoo, fares don't come close the paying the freight.


  • In reply to jack:

    It subsequently dawned on me that that Budget Proposal was BEFORE the scheme of the RTA borrowing $166M to freeze fares on CTA and paratransit for 2010-2011.

    Assuming that about $60M is the CTA's 2010 share, that means that passengers will be paying about $465M of the $1.27B operating budget.

    Considering all of the technicalities mentioned by Scooter and me, I am surprised that CTA even claims to get somewhat over 90 cents a ride.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Okay so I'm going to make this argument, disregarding the fact that I am a daily blue line sufferer, I mean rider.

    The blue line is CTA's bastard stepchild. Its the last line to get anything. The fact that it took near monthly track fires, a derailment or two and a train consist that's as old as my parents are to get some rebuilding is almost a miracle. Yes, the North Main carries way more riders but O'Hare is the second busiest branch. Not only do most Red Line riders have the option to take an army of express buses along the Drive, for those who live near Howard or south of Belmont, theres also the Brown/ Purple lines. Blue line riders have no alternative. When the blue line goes down due to some emergency, why do you think the CTA go to DefCon 1? It's because the O'Hare branch has no other options. So yes, if they spend money on the Blue Line to repair it before Red Line, it is because its badly needed. Oh and don't say Metra is a viable alternative because its not. If you have to pay a separate fare, its not an option.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    thus concludes my morning rant.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    If you live long enough, and CTA ever finishes its testing, you probably will get the 5000s.

    Since the Blue Line (north of California) is about 50 years old, while the Red Line north of Wilson is about 90, and there were documented pictures a couple of days ago about how some of the concrete bridges are falling apart, I still think the north side main is the priority, but, as I said about two months ago, it doesn't take "vision meetings" to figure that out.

  • In reply to jack:

    True but the cost of putting in new tracks and signals for the blue is nothing compared to a complete reconstruction of the North Main. And I stand by my point of that Red Line riders have other options while blue line riders don't.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    They are in the process or just completed replacing the signals on the blue. Check the Construction Reports on transitchicago.com. ARRA money was used to replace the ties in the Blue Line subway, the site of the two derailments. So, either your facts are incorrect, or the CTA is lying.

  • In reply to jack:

    In terms of what? I looked at it and the two projects total less than $350 million. (With the majority of that for signal upgrades for the ENTIRE line) Do you expect the red line reconstruction to cost that little? That's optimistic at best.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    Is this an argument over government spoils or whether work was done?

  • In reply to jack:

    No, this is about why people shouldnt complain that the blue line is getting work while Red Line riders have to wait.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    I hadn't heard that any had.

    I did, however, hear complaints that the Circle Line was pushed while the Red Line extension was on hold. However, that seems to be reversed. Also, I haven't heard racism charges that the Red Line proposal would provide service to Altgeld Gardens and Roseland.

  • In reply to jack:

    ScooterLibby mentioned it and I've heard grumblings around.
    I'm for the revamp of the Red Line, I just dont think it should come at the expense of the ever-suffering blue line.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    I hope both lines get the work that's needed. Good to see more work done on the Blue line. Good to see the start of a process to do Major work on the North Main Line, as well as Belmont on south taken care of quite well. Also, I had to see how narrow the column width will get on continuous embedded replies. embedded replies

  • In reply to ibright05:

    It's very encouraging to see long term growth, but more riders would always be a good thing. I'd be curious to see how much of the increase is due to increased service. It's not very easy to compare like for like here. It makes sense that rail service expanded more rapidly since I believe that it is easier for new riders to understand than the bus system.

    Does anyone know the status of the Oakton station on the Yellow line? Last I heard it was opening in 2009, which I don't believe happened. That could have the potential to increase ridership. Not immediately, but long term by providing more availability.

  • In reply to chris:

    Somebody posted on Chicagobus.org that at least the signs saying construction is underway are posted.

  • In reply to chris:

    How many times did I say "check transitchicago.com" in this thread alone? Three in the past hour?

  • In reply to chris:

    Fares aren't meant to cover 100% of the operating cost.

    That being said, I've been talking to the old folks next door. They were unhappy when Rod gave them all free rides--they were fine with the discounted fares and didn't want to be a burden on anyone. Well, that's changed now that people are talking about taking the free rides away. Now they're all upset with that idea as if the free ride was a 'right' that's being taken away.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Which was exactly the result Rod wanted. Too bad (ha ha) that Rod was permanently barred from seeking office in Illinois, but Quinn is using the same coattail.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    So, the Metra is not a viable alternative if it is not free? I don't understand what you mean...

  • In reply to chris:

    Those who don't want to take the red line have other options included in their monthly pass. For blue line riders, there's no real alternative within the CTA to commute. If I have to pay for an extra Metra pass to commute, I'm going to dump the CTA. But then I still wind up paying more because when I do need the CTA. And not everyone on the blue line is near a metra stop. Those who live beyond Addison have options.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    There is the 56 bus. I don't know how viable that is, but it is an alternative, if you are rejecting the alternative of the UPNW line.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yea, I used to live near Milwaukee/ Sacramento. Its not an alternative. At all. That's still nothing compared to the plethora of Lakeshore express routes that compliment the red line.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Bus are purchased with capital dollars not operating funds. Fares taken in are operating funds.

    But the rest of your points I agree with TOO MAMY FREE RIDES. Fares should be passed on distance traveled.

  • In reply to leobaz:

    Again, that is not clear in this situation, as 150 of the buses used to replace the NABIs are subject to a lease requiring a payment of $13M a year, and did not involve federal funds.

    Since I am done doing work for others today, why don't you look at the budget and identify the line number of that expenditure.

    Admittedly, ARRA money paid for the other 58.

    BTW, did you go back and read the budget regarding your first incorrect assumption?

  • I'd love to see statistics for specific lines over ten years. What I'm most interested in is how much the "Pink line" has changed since it was converted from part of the blue.

  • In reply to aczysz:

    Monthly ridership statistics per L station entrance are posted on transitchicago.com. They go back to 2001. So yes, you can do your own research. http://www.transitchicago.com/news_initiatives/ridershipreports.aspx

    Essentially, though, Douglas was disconnected, because ridership on that end was no way near 1/2 of on the O'Hare Branch; originally closer to 10%.

    For 2009, O'Hare was 21 M, Forest Park 8M, and Pink 4.5M.

    For 2001, O'Hare was 19M, Congress was 6.6M and Douglas was 2.4M.

    You can do the rest of the work yourself. Douglas ridership earlier in the decade MIGHT have been affected by the ongoing construction (no weekend service), but it appears that the Pink Line is doing about twice as well as its predecessor. So, if you were looking for the opposite conclusion, it didn't happen.

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