Tracy Swartz, @TracySwartz
12:33 PM CDT, July 7, 2014
For 17 straight months, CTA bus ridership has declined compared with the previous year, a trend that the CTA calls "complicated."
The agency has recorded bus ridership losses compared with the previous year every month from December 2012 to April 2014, according to data posted in the past week.
This year has been particularly bad for bus ridership but good for rail ridership. CTA data shows users took 91 million bus rides from January to April compared with 99.9 million bus rides in the same period in 2013.
The CTA blamed record-cold weather for the declines in January and February. The Chicago Public Schools spring break was later this year than last year, which affected the March ridership numbers, the CTA said. A detailed April ridership report has not been posted to the CTA website as of Monday afternoon.
CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said some bus riders also have switched to using trains, which have seen an upswing. Rail ridership is up about 4 percent through April compared with the same period in 2013, according to CTA data.
"We're not really sure of the factors behind" the bus decline, Chase said. "It's complicated."
Chase pointed out that bus ridership was up in 2011 and 2012, a record year for CTA transit.
She said ridership is known to fluctuate because of factors such as weather, population and development. The recent bus decline was not because of bus cuts the CTA implemented in December 2012 as part of its effort to decrowd buses and trains, Chase said.
The agency cut about a dozen partial or full bus routes while adding service to 48 popular bus routes. Many rail lines also saw additional service.
In 2010, the CTA also cut bus service by 18 percent (including nine express bus routes) and rail service by 9 percent.
And while the CTA has improved rail service by removing slow zones on the southern portion of the Red Line last year and opening new stations on the Green and Yellow lines two years ago, it has been slower to improve bus routes. A plan to create express bus service in the Loop this year has been shelved, according to media reports.
In terms of the quality of bus service, the CTA struggled in the first quarter to meet its monthly target for gaps in bus service, bus bunching (when two buses on the same route arrive to a stop at the same time) and bus cleanliness. Chase said the CTA implemented a stricter bus cleaning schedule last year.
"We're commited to cleaning our buses for longer periods of time," Chase said.
The Illinois and Chicago Departments of Transportation are hosting an open house about how to improve North Lake Shore Drive. The meeting will be 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Drake Hotel, 140 East Walton Place. Go to northlakeshoredrive.org for more information.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Granville Red Line
It's been about two years since the Granville station in Edgewater reopened after a six-week closure to make improvements to the stationhouse as part of an $86 million project to fix and beautify seven North Side Red Line stations.
In comparison with other Red Line stations on the North Side, Granville isn't as decrepit. It is accessible for riders with disabilities, unlike some northern Red Line stops. Though its neighbor to the north, Loyola, underwent an extensive renovation recently, and there is a proposal to upgrade stations from Lawrence to Bryn Mawr, there has been no announcement on any planned improvements to Granville.
Next up: Loyola Red Line
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