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RTA Peer Reports Show Region’s Transit System Ranks High in Efficiency, Reliability

April 13, 2015

Riders traveled more than four billion miles in 2013 for third consecutive year

(CHICAGO) - The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) recently released its annual Peer Performance Measure Reports which examine Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace performance compared to systems in their peer cities around the country.  The reports, which cover performance for the 2013 report year, showed that the region’s system performed well for measures relating to efficiency, operating cost, and reliability, including having the lowest operating cost per passenger mile amongst its peers at 0.56 cents.

The reports evaluate the region’s transit system both regionally and sub-regionally. The regional peer review evaluates how the region’s transit system, as a whole, performs against nine other metropolitan regions in the U.S. The sub-regional peer review examines how each of the service boards’ modes of transportation performs against five similar peer agencies.  Both reports use data submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to ensure consistency and comparability.

The region’s peer group consists of Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. The service boards ranked in the top half of their peer groups for 13 of the fifteen measures reviewed and in the top three for nine of those measures. Sub regionally, CTA and Metra rail had the lowest in operating cost per passenger mile and CTA and Pace buses had the lowest operating cost per revenue vehicle hour and the second lowest operating cost per passenger mile.

Along with this report, the RTA also released 2013-2014 regional customer satisfaction survey results. The results of that survey align with the positive information revealed by the peer performance comparison:  respondents indicated an 87% loyalty rating, meaning they were likely or very likely to recommend the region’s public transportation system to others. 

The regional peer performance report found that in 2013, the region’s transit riders collectively traveled more than four billion miles a year; only New York ranked higher with over 18 billion miles traveled.  The report also shows that 30 percent of the region’s buses, trains, vans and paratransit vehicles have reached the end of their minimum useful life.  But, the region’s transit system continues to rank in the top half of its peer group for the number of miles traveled between major mechanical failures, showing superior maintenance of the region’s transit vehicles.    

 “We consider generating this type of report to be an important element of the service the RTA provides to our region,” said Leanne P. Redden, RTA Executive Director.  “Despite our region’s capital funding challenges, it continues to achieve high marks, which shows the solid performance of the service boards and confirms their ability to successfully operate our region’s transit system safely and efficiently.”   

Regional and Sub-Regional Peer Review Highlights


Capital Investment

  • 30 percent of the region’s vehicles have reached their minimum useful life defined by the FTA (12 years for new buses; 25 years for new rail cars); however, vehicles used by the CTA, Metra and Pace ranked in the top three for traveling the farthest without experiencing major mechanical failures. The region’s system buses and trains traveled an average of 25,348 miles between breakdowns, behind first-ranked Boston at 29,272 miles and more than three times farther than Atlanta at 6,869.
  • The Chicago transit region’s capital investment totals $100 per resident compared to $212 per resident in New York City and $24 per resident in Miami. 


  • The Chicago area continues to rank at the top of the list when it comes to service efficiency and effectiveness, including having the lowest operating cost per passenger mile (the total operating cost divided by the total miles traveled by passengers) amongst its peers at 0.56 cents.


  • Ridership fell in the region by 2.5 percent, providing 643 million passenger trips in 2013, but maintained its third place ranking behind New York and Los Angeles.
  • In 2013, the region’s riders collectively traveled more than 4 billion miles for the third consecutive year, second to New York at 18.6 billion miles.


  • CTA, Metra and Pace continue to perform strongly among their transit peers, particularly in the area of service efficiency and effectiveness.
  • CTA bus and Pace Suburban bus maintain the top ranking for having the lowest operating costs per vehicle revenue hour in their peer groups.
  • CTA rail and Metra continue to have the lowest operating cost per passenger mile in their peer groups.
  • CTA bus ranked first for fare recovery ratio, nearly five percentage points higher than New York which ranked second, and almost 11 percentage points higher than the peer average.
  • Metra performed better than the peer average for all measures of service coverage and efficiency and effectiveness.  And despite having the oldest fleet vehicles, nearly 11 years older than the peer average, Metra equals the peer average for miles between major mechanical failures.
  • Metra continues to fall below the peer average for all fare-related measures despite their 2012 fare increase and elimination of the 10-ride ticket discount in 2013.
  • Pace vanpool ridership grew 1.9 percent in 2013 as 23 new vanpools were put into service.
  • Pace placed 285 new vans into service in 2013, improving its average fleet age by two rank positions

To view a copy of the full report, please visit


About the RTA

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is the only transit agency charged with regional financial oversight, funding, and transit planning for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace bus and paratransit.    The RTA region serves two million riders each weekday in six counties with 7,200 transit route miles throughout Northeastern Illinois.  The Agency also provides customer services including on-line and telephone travel planning assistance and travel training for seniors and people with disabilities.  

Press Information

Melissa Meyer

Communications Manager
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