Did You Know?
More people are riding transit! But are they doing it in Chicagoland?
This week the American Public Transportation Association released a report showing that nationwide, transit ridership is the highest it has been in 57 years. According to 2013 ridership data, a record 10.7 billion transit trips were taken last year, making 2013 the 8th year in a row with more than 10 billion trips.
The report is great proof that more and more people want to take transit.
Ridership trends show that the recovering economy has helped increase those numbers, as more people go back to work and choose transit as a cost effective way to get around.
The increase in transit riders has also outpaced other factors, such as changes in the cost of gas, increases in vehicle miles traveled and population growth.
But a closer look at the report shows that Chicago region isn’t sharing in the celebration. According to APTA, the Chicago region actually saw a small decline in transit ridership in 2013.
And while Chicago’s numbers have increased gradually over the past several years, they are certainly not the highest Chicago has seen in the last 57 years.
Why isn’t Chicago holding pace with transit growth around the country? The report mentions that some of the largest gains have been in smaller cities that have built or expanded transit options in the last few years.
But even large cities such as New York and Los Angeles outpaced Chicago. This seems to show that the cities that have invested in transit and focused on increasing service have reaped the rewards.
Chicago continues to struggle to pay for its existing service and commuters have watched as fares increased but service stagnated over the last several years.
The picture is not all bad for Chicago, as the region has seen some increase in transit ridership in recent years. In fact, 2013’s minor decline aside, local ridership is near the highest it’s been in roughly 20 years.
But where other cities are seeing their recent increases as new growth, for Chicago, the 20 years of gradual increase has only barely gotten us back to the ridership levels of the 1980s, and still comes nowhere close to the ridership if we try to look back as far as 1957.
It’s clear Chicago needs to do more to invest in transit. Cities around the country have shown that building and expanding transit service has led to large increases in ridership, and if we did the same, Chicago would be no exception.
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