CTA Ridership at Record-Breaking High Since the Pandemic

CTA ridership has risen significantly as pandemic restrictions are lifted and Chicago residents return to regularly using public transportation.

There has been a significant increase in the amount of riders on public transportation throughout Chicago, reaching the city’s highest levels since the pandemic, according to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). 

In 2019, the CTA reported a total of 1,468,731 rail and bus boardings on the average weekday, but as the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to work or study from home, the 2020 CTA ridership drastically declined, according to the CTA’s Annual Ridership Report for 2020,

CTA ridership reached its peak in ridership since the pandemic with 5.57 million riders for the week of Oct. 1 through Oct. 8, according to a CTA instagram post

The total ridership for the CTA fell 57.6% compared with 2019. More specifically, bus ridership was down 48.8% and rail ridership was down 65.2%, according to the report. 

Despite dramatic decreases in ridership, the rate of violent crimes on CTA trains and platforms had more than doubled in 2020, the Chicago Tribune found. The pandemic brought a number of obstacles for public transit workers both in Chicago and across the U.S., according to the CTA.  In addition to these challenges, fewer people on trains and buses meant that people were left without a safety blanket of bystanders to temper violent situations, according to the Tribune. 

Bailey White, a junior at Loyola who recently transferred from DePaul, has relied on the CTA heavily over the past two years. 

“I definitely felt like I had seen more sketchy situations last year than this year,” White said. “DePaul didn’t have a shuttle so I relied on the train a lot to get downtown.”

As pandemic restrictions have lifted and workplaces have continued to open, the city of Chicago has seen ridership numbers at record-breaking levels. So far this year, the city has seen an average of over 900,000 daily weekday riders and approximately 22.3 million rides just within the month of September. These numbers are significantly higher than in January, which was at an average of 38,000 on weekdays, according to the CTA.

Some Loyola students have felt a shift in the atmosphere on CTA trains and buses since the pandemic. Natasha Gonzalez, a Loyola senior who takes CTA trains and buses quite frequently both now and during the pandemic, said the shift made her feel better about taking public transport. 

“On the L, it didn’t feel as safe because there was nobody there,” Gonzalez said. “It became a lot more comfortable in general just because now there are more people overall.”

Gonzalez said avoiding crime on the CTA is not something that is new to her while taking public transportation in Chicago, even specifically in taking CTA buses versus trains.

“I have felt more comfortable taking the bus versus the L because you can see the bus driver,” Gonzalez said. “People can see inside of the bus and you can see out.”

According to the CTA, bus ridership during the pandemic only decreased by 48.8% for the year, from 237,276,400 rides to 121,449,922 rides. However, train ridership decreased by a staggering 65.2% in 2020, from 218,467,145 rides to 76,049,871 rides.

Featured image by Austin Hojdar | The Phoenix

Grace Mooney

Grace Mooney