Chicago Transit Recovery Trails Behind Other Major US Cities

Sluggish ridership rates and staffing shortages are dampening recovery. Looming budget gaps could make things even worse.

1 minute read

May 10, 2024, 8:00 AM PDT

By Mary Hammon @marykhammon


CTA Purple Line train

Ben Schumin / Wikimedia Commons

Transit ridership across the United States fell sharply when the pandemic hit in 2020, and most major cities still have not fully recovered. That’s particularly true for Chicago, the country’s second largest public transportation system.

According to an article from Chicago news outlet WGN9, CTA (Chicago) ridership is 60 percent recovered. In comparison, Los Angeles is 74 percent recovered and Washington, D.C. 76 percent recovered. Nationwide, public transit across all modes has recovered to 79 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association

The WGN9 article details the drivers of the CTA’s sluggish recovery, which include service cuts, reliability issues, and staffing shortages. The cuts in service were intended to bring the schedule in line with demand, but between those cuts and not enough bus and rail operators to serve the runs, riders are suffering “a loss of confidence in the CTA to deliver on the most basic promises: trains and buses arriving on schedule,” report Mike Lowe and Austin Kleber.

Along with a projected 2026 budget gap of $730 million between CTA, Pace, and Metra now that federal COVID relief has come to an end, additional service cuts and employee layoffs lie ahead if additional revenue streams are not secured.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024 in WGN9

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