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CTA ridership up 2.4%

The CTA logged 2.4 percent more rides last year compared with 2011 and recorded its best ridership year since 1990, the agency said Monday.

Most of the increase was on the rail side, which saw a 4.2 percent jump over 2011. Bus ridership saw a 1.1 percent rise, CTA data shows.

The CTA recorded 545 million rides in 2012, up from 532 million in 2011. The 2012 number was the highest annual total for the CTA in 22 years, agency spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.

“Customers chose affordable, reliable public transit over high gas prices during a slow economic recovery, and recognized and appreciated the investment CTA made in its system, which included station renewal efforts and slow zone removals,” Chase said.

The rail station that saw the highest percentage of growth was the Rosemont Blue Line station (13.8 percent), followed by the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station (13.2 percent).

Those numbers aren’t unexpected. The Rivers Casino in Des Plaines opened in 2011 and provides free shuttle service from the Rosemont Blue Line. Meanwhile, Cermak-Chinatown renovations, which included entrance closures, were completed last spring after a semitruck crashed into the station in 2008.

The news wasn't all good for the CTA, which saw ridership dip in December by 1.8 percent. Bus ridership was down 3.1 percent last month while rail ridership was up 0.1 percent.

That month, average weekday ridership on trains was down 0.7 percent compared with December 2011. Fewer people boarded the Pink, Green and Red lines on an average weekday than during the previous year.

Chase said the December ridership dip could be blamed on high ridership numbers in December 2011, when temperatures were warm and Christmas fell on a Sunday. This year, Christmas was on a Tuesday, which affected weekday ridership numbers, Chase said.

Other factors that could have affected December ridership numbers include the CTA’s decrowding plan, which added buses to 48 routes and trains during rush hour to all but the Yellow and Pink lines. More than a dozen full or partial bus routes were cut as part of that plan, which was implemented in mid-December.

The CTA disputes that the decrowding plan had any effect on December numbers.

Also last month, the CTA completed its renovation of seven North Side Red Line stations, which closed for six weeks apiece as the agency painted walls, fixed lighting and improved track.

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