CTA announces initiative to improve rider experience and shorten travel times

CTA announces initiative to improve rider experience and shorten travel times

In a major initiative to reduce uncomfortable crowding and meet growing ridership, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is adding bus and train service to high-demand routes across the entire CTA network. The additions to service will reduce the time between trains and buses and lower peak crowd loads by 10 to 15 percent in most cases. Through the first half of 2012, CTA’s ridership growth was higher than nearly every other major U.S. transit system.  The rail ridership increase was especially high at 6.2 percent—placing CTA’s growth second among major U.S. transit agencies. Bus ridership also showed a jump of more than 3.9 million riders, up 2.6 percent for the year.

Working in concert with Northwestern University’s Transportation Center (NUTC), the CTA has developed a comprehensive plan to restructure its routes and schedules based on changing ridership patterns. In addition, the CTA has proposed discontinuing a small number of routes that duplicate existing service or that have extremely low ridership. It is adding service to some areas and beefing up service where demand has outstripped the traditional allocation of buses and trains. The result is the equivalent of $16 million in added service at no cost whatsoever to taxpayers.

“The CTA’s goal is to provide a comfortable and efficient experience for customers, as well as accommodate growing ridership, which has risen for 16 consecutive months, adding 22 million new riders since June of 2011,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “This route restructuring, based on comprehensive review of the entire transit system, is long overdue and is the first system-wide, holistic review of CTA’s bus and rail service in 15 years. Through the strategic restructuring effort, CTA will realize $16 million of savings – all of which will be reinvested into the additional service on the highest-demand and most-crowded routes.” 

In 2011, CTA engaged the services of the Northwestern University Transportation Center (NUTC), a nationally recognized research and education center, to evaluate their system. The Center analyzed CTA’s service, using CTA data on ridership numbers, ridership patterns and route configurations, as well as the availability of other transit options, to maximize service quality.

“The Northwestern University Transportation Center is pleased to have partnered with the CTA in this critical effort to address the transit system’s needs,” said Hani Mahmassani, NUTC’s director. “In a collaborative process, our researchers worked closely with CTA officials and used the latest methodologies to systematically track ridership and service patterns to help the CTA determine the best course for the system.”

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The initiative to reduce crowding and meet increased ridership demand is the latest in a series of management improvements the CTA has launched since May 2011. Efforts to increase investment in system improvements and reduce inefficiencies, among others, are intended to improve service and the customer experience for CTA riders.

A public hearing will be held September 4, 2012 at CTA Headquarters, 567 W. Lake St., Chicago, at 6 p.m, to analyze proposed service changes and receive feedback from the public as to the best ways to improve the restructuring effort. The CTA Board will vote on the De-crowding Initiative at its next board meeting September 12, with the schedule changes to take place on December 16, 2012.

Bus Service Overview
Reducing crowding has a direct and significant impact on customer comfort and satisfaction. For example, on the #77 Belmont bus route, the additional buses will reduce the average peak load during the 7 a.m. rush hour from 58 customers to 49 customers—a 15 percent reduction. Similarly, on the #79 79th Street route, the PM rush peak load would fall from 53 to 47—an 11 percent drop.

The proposed plan would improve 48 routes, including the busiest and most crowded bus routes in the city, by adding service during peak times on congested routes and extending two other routes. It would discontinue 12 duplicative and low-ridership routes. In nearly every case where service is proposed for discontinuation, there is duplicate CTA bus or rail service, or overlapping bus service by Pace. It would also renegotiate or discontinue 9 contracted bus routes that the CTA subsidizes on behalf of corporate or institutional entities.

Rail Service Overview

Rail service is enhanced with additional trips during peak weekday times and increased frequency and extended hours at other times. Specifically, during weekday peak travel times, 17 rail trips will be added to six lines, mostly on the Blue, Red and Brown lines, the CTA’s busiest train routes. That translates to an additional 10,000 rides on a weekday. During weekday off-peak times, the frequency of the Red, Brown and Orange lines will increase by as much as 2 ½ minutes between trains. On the weekends, service frequency will also increase substantially on the Red, Brown and Blue lines, the CTA’s busiest rail lines.