Better equipment, better facilities, a recovering economy and high gas prices were key factors contributing to transit ridership increasing year to date, as reported during last week’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) board meeting.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace accommodated more than 443.5 million passengers on the region’s rail and bus system, a 3.2 percent increase above last year and the highest reported ridership through August in the last 10 years. The CTA’s rail ridership increase of 4.4 percent was among the highest in the country during the second quarter of 2012, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

“The steady ridership increase is a clear indication that more people are choosing our transit system,” said RTA Chairman John S. Gates, Jr. He further expressed optimism about customer enhancements having a positive impact on ridership. Examples include Pace’s I-55 Bus on Shoulder service that has experienced significant ridership growth, the CTA’s forthcoming Bus Rapid Transit projects, real time technology tools like Metra’s Rail Time Tracker and a new mobile trip planner app recently announced by the RTA.

Pace Suburban bus service showed the strongest ridership increase by 6.4 percent over last year. The CTA also fared very well with an overall increase in ridership of 3.6 percent above last year, with rail ridership outpacing bus ridership by about two percent. While Metra did not see an increase in ridership over prior year, they managed to stay only one percent below last year’s ridership numbers despite a 25 percent fare increase. This decline is less than what Metra anticipated though, as ridership through August is 0.7 percent higher than budget.

Pace ADA ridership continued to experience increased ridership at 8.2 percent above 2011 year-to-date.

If current trends continue, 2012 may be the highest year for ridership system-wide since 1990.

August Ridership Year-to-Date vs. Prior Year (in millions)
  2011 2012 Change % Change
CTA 350.3 363.0 12.7 3.6%
Metra 55.1 54.5 -0.6 -1.1%
Pace 22.0 23.4 1.4 6.4%
Pace ADA 2.3 2.5 0.2 8.2%
Total 429.8 443.5 13.7 3.2%

The positive ridership trends underscore the critical State of Good Repair funding needs for the transit system, said Chairman Gates.

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