The CTA touts a ridership rebound with 56% increase since start of 2021

A bus on the Loop Link corridor on Washington Street. Photo: John Greenfield
A bus on the Loop Link corridor on Washington Street. Photo: John Greenfield

There was some good news from the Chicago Transit Authority today, as the agency reported a 56 percent jump in total bus and rail ridership since January of this year, to 4 million rides a week.

The ‘L’ system, which serves a higher percentage of white-collar employees who worked from home during the pandemic, saw a more severe drop during the crisis, and has therefore seen an even more dramatic ridership increase during reopening. From January to mid-June, the number of weekly rides increased by 94 percent to more than 1.6 million trips.

“There is no question that CTA service needs to support the return to all the things we used to do,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. in a statement. “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.”

The CTA says ridership gains have picked up speed in recent months as vaccination became widespread and more workplaces and venues have reopened. Since May 1, overall ridership has increased by than 20 percent, and in June, weekday average ridership was more than 600,000, over double the ridership during the darkest days of COVID-19.

Ridership to and from the Loop has seen the biggest gains of any park of the city, as white-collar workers return to offices and more events and activities are held downtown. Since the start of May, rail ridership is up 53 percent, while ridership on bus routes mostly serving the Loop was up 41 percent. The CTA expects another bump in ridership when Chicago Public Schools students return to in-person classes in the fall.

The agency acknowledged that ridership is still far below pre-pandemic levels. Over the several weeks, the CTA launched its “When you’re ready, we’re ready!” marketing blitz and “Refresh and Renew” station renovation program, including deep cleaning and/or repairs to  more than 125 rail stations by the end of the year.

The CTA also rolled out a summer fare promotion, “More Fun, Less Fare,” which offers discounts on multi-ride passes, currently $5 for a 1-day, $15 for a 3-day; and $20 for a 7-day.

For more info about CTA’s reopening efforts, visit transitchicago.com/ready

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