Five-year ridership trend grows for RTA; capital funding biggest challenge

The RTA is reporting positive trends from 2009-2013 in most performance areas – except capital funding.

That’s according to the recently released Regional Report Card. Here are some key takeaways:

  • ¬†Over the five-year period of 2009-2013, CTA rail ridership has grown by 13 percent.
  • Despite a five-year trend of reduced service, the overall trend for ridership is up.
  • The cost per passenger mile, which represents the cost to provide the amount of service taken by Chicago-area riders, decreased on an inflation-adjusted basis.
  • New capital funding has decreased by 29% in the past 10 years from $1.1 billion to $772 million system-wide and remains a serious challenge to meeting regional solvency. The 10-year capital funding need is $33 billion.

The year 2012 was the best ridership year. The region experienced a ridership level of 659 million, the highest since 1990.

However, 2013 was not so good, with an overall decline in ridership. The drop was primarily due to:

  • The six-month closure of the CTA Red Line South
  • A CTA fare increase
  • Unusually cold winter weather in the fourth quarter of 2013.

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  • 1. Apparently the RTA isn't counting "free rides" due to the Red Line South, while how CTA counted them isn't transparent.

    2. If ridership was down due to bad weather in the 4th quarter of 2013, just imagine how it will be considering the weather was much worse in the 1st quarter of 2014 (through about April 20).

    3. On the capital deficit and back to "should CTA raise fares like Metra," the Metra budget indicates that the fare increase to cover the bonds only covers about 16% of only the Positive Train Control and car replacement program (not bridge replacement and the like), and basically Metra is running on hope starting in 2018. Considering that the CTA capital deficit is twice as big, you wonder how big a fare increase would really be needed. If one assumes another poster's proposal that CTA should implement the A-B fare, that's going to be $3.50. But you were talking something like a $2.50 fare, which, if the Metra budget means anything, won't make much of any dent. Of course, since the actual fare reported per unlinked trip is $1.12, increasing that to $1.24 is even more insufficient.

    4. Of course, no CTA 2015 budget book yet.

  • In reply to jack:

    One way to get some extra money for the CTA would be to charge for those damned strollers, based on the number of seats they take up.
    Since they all take up at least three seats & sometimes four, then it would be $6.75 for three seats & $9.00 for four seats.
    Then these idiots will stop buying those huge things & go back to the umbrella strollers, that can be folded up.
    Otherwise, drive or take a cab!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The Metra articles always have the anecdote "the conductors don't check all the tickets." Whether you get the mommies to pay multiple fares (are you going to be able to sell 30 day passes at those rates), it isn't going to come up with $21 billion over 10 years to fill the capital deficit. Maybe Rahm can figure out some way that they can attach the strollers to Divvy bikes, which seems to be his real strategy.

    The Divvy bike seems consistent with Distinguished Fellow Daley's plan for Gary--a can of paint for the street to mark a bike lane costs only $5.00, compared to the amount of the capital deficit noted above.

  • In reply to jack:

    'Not sure what the Divvy comment has to do with the CTA. If anything, Divvy riders take stress off the CTA system. I have a monthly CTA pass, so they already have my money. When I take a bike for half my trips, the CTA benefits.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    You basically have stated a tangential way CTA benefits, although you have to figure whether you are still getting $1.12 per unlinked trip use out of your pass.

    But my point relevant to this thread is what I said about the capital deficit in my distinguished fellow paragraph--take the cheap way out.

    Other than that, how do you explain Emanuel's love of Divvy, bike lanes, and UberX?

  • In reply to jack:

    Emanuel wants to appeal to a younger generation in regards to biking for pleasure, errands, and commuting to work. National trends indicate that while this is still a small percentage, it is growing rapidly. His love of the bike "infrastructure" is in line with these trends.

    As for UberX, it's not as clear, but it might have something to do with the jobs it brings, particularly, the good paying type. When Quinn vetoed the bill, Uber said they'd follow through on a promise to hire 425 jobs through 2016 in their Chicago office by 2016. These are $50-100K jobs. While, some of the hiring was planned, regulation would have limited how many they would have hired.

    Also, you could argue that UberX is a more efficient use of the roads, while traditional taxis theoretically clog the streets roaming for fares.

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