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The Chicago region’s current hub-and-spoke transit system leaves nearly half a million Cook County residents stranded in transit deserts.

New report calls for city action to reverse bus ridership declines

A healthy and growing bus system is critical to building a more sustainable transportation network in Chicago. Back on the Bus, a new report from the Active Transportation Alliance, analyzes the recent drop in Chicago bus ridership and outlines low-cost ways to improve service and increase bus ridership.

Read the executive summary and full report. Share the report on social media with #backonthebus.

The report calls on elected officials and transit agency leaders to improve bus service and reverse the trend of Chicagoans abandoning public transit for less efficient transportation options.

While CTA rail ridership has generally grown over the last several years, bus ridership has declined rapidly. From 2015 to 2016, bus ridership in Chicago fell by more than 15 million rides (5.8 percent), continuing a recent trend of fewer Chicagoans riding the bus.

Since 2012, bus ridership has declined in Chicago by more than 17 percent, and it’s dropped by more than 21 percent since pre-recession levels in 2008.

See full coverage of the report in Mary Wisniewski’s front page Chicago Tribune story.

Fewer Chicagoans riding the bus means more driving and more cars on our already congested streets.

The city’s hub-and-spoke rail system continues to be a good option for people who live and work along the lines and in the Loop, but many neighborhoods lack access to it.

Lower quality bus service has major equity impacts. A disproportionate number of bus riders live in low-income communities or work in places that lack access to the rail transit system.

Substandard bus service hurts these Chicagoans the most while discouraging higher-income residents otherwise inclined to ride transit from riding the bus more frequently.

Without more investment in bus service, Chicago risks more people abandoning transit for transportation options that are more expensive and less efficient, healthy, and green.

The report advocates for long overdue bus service upgrades that will improve the speed and reliability of bus service and help retain and attract riders, including dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal improvements, and faster boarding.

It also includes recommendations for polcies that support bus ridership growth, such as creating effective ways to fairly enforce bus-only lanes and reforming regulation of ride-hailing providers like Uber and Lyft. 

Read more about the recommended service upgrades and policy changes on our campaign webpage. 

The recommendations in the report are endorsed by a coalition of community-based organizations and non-profit experts. See all 10 members of the Back on the Bus Coalition and let us know if your organization is interested in joining.

Moving forward, Active Trans will work with its coalition partners to fight for the bus service improvements outlined in the report. Join our advocacys supporter list to stay up to date on the campaign and all of our advocacy work.