New data from CTA shows that ridership in 2012 continued to increase from historic lows set in early 1990s. In 2012, CTA ridership was 2.4 percent higher than 2011, and 2011 was 2.9 percent higher than 2010. Most of the ridership growth in 2012 was on CTA’s rail lines – up 4 percent.
Unfortunately, as the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday, the Regional Transportation Authority predicts little or no CTA ridership growth in 2013, partly because of recent CTA fare hikes.
Service cuts enacted in December 2012 and crowding on some rail segments (which has lessened, but is still an issue, since CTA began its de-crowding changes) are likely to stem ridership growth, as will the temporary closure of the South Side Red Line later this year.
With gas prices high, roads congested and more people wanting to ride transit, we should be doing everything possible to make it easy for people to ride transit, including adding new rail and express bus routes that cut across our hub and spoke system.
A recent Brookings Institute study found that more than three-fourths of the population of metropolitan Chicago needs more than 90 minutes for a one-way transit trip to the typical job. This is not acceptable.
Meanwhile, the CTA can’t even keep up with its current system. CTA was forced to raise fares and cut service due to chronic funding shortfalls, and the agency can’t keep up with maintenance needs.
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Update on February 5, 2013: CTA President Forrest Claypool responded to the Chicago Tribune article cited above with this letter to the editor (scroll down to the third letter, which is titled CTA Projects).
In the letter, Claypool makes some valid points but doesn't address my main concern about ridership. Also, I think much of the money he cites as allocated by the mayor came from the state and is bond money that is running out. How does CTA sustain and increase these improvements to reach a state of good repair and achieve better service?