Bus and rail ridership for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has more than doubled since the start of the year and continues to grow, according to officials, as public transit continues to play a vital role in the city and region’s reopening.
Since January, overall ridership has jumped 56%, to four million rides a week. Rail ridership — which saw a sharper drop during the pandemic than bus ridership — was up 9% in mid-June compared to January, with more than 1.6 million weekly trips.
“There is no question that the CTA service needs to support the return to all the things we used to do,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. “Whether you’re getting back to the office or enjoying one of Chicago’s many summertime events, the CTA is ready when you’re ready.”
In recent months, with the city’s gradual reopening, the CTA has seen some of its biggest gains in ridership. Since May 1, CTA ridership has jumped more than 20%, and in the month of June, weekday average ridership was over 600,000, more than double the ridership at the height of the pandemic.
Ridership to and from the Loop has seen the biggest gains of any area of the city, as workers return to the office and downtown events and activities. Since May 1, rail ridership is up 53%, while ridership on bus routes primarily serving the Loop was up 41%.
As it did throughout the pandemic, the CTA continues provide a high level of service and is committed to continuing its extensive cleaning and disinfecting program. By operating on a full-service schedule, the CTA said it has the capacity to accommodate additional riders as Chicagoans slowly resume their previous day-to-day activities, including their daily commutes to and from work and as students return to in-person classes this fall, which is when the agency expects to see yet another uptick in weekday ridership.
“Although the city has fully reopened, we remain committed to continuing to provide a clean, healthy, and comfortable travel environment,” Carter said. “We’re doing everything we can to roll out the welcome mat for our customers and reminding them that public transit is the most affordable, efficient, and environmentally friendly way to get around.”
While ridership is up, it is still well below pre-pandemic levels. Like transit agencies across the country, the CTA is strongly focused on encouraging riders to return to transit.
Over the last several weeks, the CTA launched “When You’re Ready, We’re Ready!” a comprehensive, multi-faceted campaign designed to promote ridership and tout the importance of public transit. Among many elements, the campaign includes “Refresh & Renew,” an expanded and accelerated program to improve more than 125 rail stations across the system by the end of the year.
The CTA also introduced a summertime fare promotion, “More Fun, Less Fare,” which offers discounts on the agency's most popular multi-ride passes.