By Jon Hilkevitch
6:06 PM CST, January 30, 2013
The growth in CTA ridership slowed slightly last year, gaining 2 percent overall compared with a 3 percent increase in 2011, according to new numbers released Wednesday.
The challenge will be to keep it going. Preliminary projections for 2013 indicate little or no growth in CTA ridership, partly because of increases in all pass prices this year, according to the Regional Transportation Authority. The CTA had held the line on fare hikes over the past four years because they lead to ridership declines, even if only for the short term.
A well-established trend of rail ridership accounting for a rising share of all transit trips continued in 2012 with 4 percent growth, down slightly from a 5 percent increase in 2011, but matching a 4 percent increase in 2010, CTA records show.
Bus ridership increased 1 percent in both 2012 and 2011, reversing a 4 percent dive that occurred in 2010 during the Great Recession. Overall, CTA ridership slipped 1 percent in 2010 and 2009.
About 58 percent of all CTA rides are on buses, down from about 66 percent about a decade ago. Officials attribute part of the reason for the decline to worsening traffic gridlock and efforts to improve service on the rail system by reducing the number of slow zones caused by deteriorated track.
The CTA is experimenting with a new form of express bus service, called bus rapid transit, on the No. 14 Jeffery route to speed trips and boost ridership. Future bus rapid transit routes, which include bus-only lanes, traffic-signal priority for buses and other features, are being planned for the central business district and on Ashland and Western avenues between the Far North Side and the Far South Side.
The Blue and Orange lines each posted 7 percent ridership increases in 2012, and ridership on the Brown Line picked up 6 percent. The Yellow and Pink lines recorded 18 percent and 7 percent increases, respectively, according to the data.
Average Saturday boardings on the rail system increased 6 percent, the numbers show.
Express bus routes on Lake Shore Drive also served more riders in 2012, officials said.
A total of 545.6 million trips were taken on the CTA bus and rail systems last year, marking the highest annual total in 22 years, transit officials said. Passenger boardings in 2011 totaled more than 530 million.
The transit agency is modernizing its bus and rail fleets. A total of 706 rail cars built by Bombardier Transportation are being delivered, replacing cars that are about 40 years old. The CTA is also replacing old buses and overhauling buses that are at the midpoint of their useful service, officials said.Jhilkevitch@tribune.com
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