CHICAGO — The number of people riding the city’s rail and bus lines reached its highest level in decades last year, officials said.
The more than 545 million rides last year was the highest annual total in 22 years, according to the CTA.
Ridership grew by more than 13 million additional rides in 2012, increasing 2.4 percent, according to the CTA.
Rides increased by similar levels in 2011, in what CTA officials say is one of the strongest two-year periods in the authority’s history.
Rail rides jumped last year to more than 231 million trips, a 50-year high, according to the CTA. Bus rides increased to more than 314 million, the third-highest annual total since 1994.
CTA officials credited the increases to “a historic level of investment” by Mayor Rahm Emanuel into the nation’s second-largest bus and rail system.
The CTA continues to replace aging rail cars and has “an aggressive plan” under way to replace or overhaul the bus fleet.
CTA officials also point to improved slow zones, customer information, station renovations and more concessions — all moves authority officials said have added value and convenience to the rail system.
The CTA has more than $4 billion worth of projects either planned or under way, all while providing 1.7 million rides each weekday, CTA President Forrest Claypool said in the release.
Increased ridership should come as welcome news to the mayor and CTA officials, who faced some opposition over fare increases that went into effect this month, as well as the elimination of some bus routes.
The 2013 CTA budget calls for surcharges and price hikes for one-, three-, seven- and 30-day passes.
Emanuel said in November that if commuters don’t like the fare increases, they are free to drive.
“The standard fare stays the same, and energy prices at the pump do not, and that is a choice the commuter will pick which way they want to get to work,” he said in November. “Right now, [gas prices] are dropping, and if you’re willing to take a bet like that over the next four years, we’ll see.”