CITY HALL — The CTA once again set records for ridership last year, even as data released Friday reflected what the agency called a "longtime migration by CTA riders to rail from bus."
Overall ridership across the transit agency rose to a record 516 million trips, topping the 2014 record by 1.4 million, or 0.4 percent. Train travel drove the new high, with a record 242 million train trips, up 3.5 million, or 1.6 percent, from 2014 in what has become an annual new record.
The CTA credited the opening of the new Green Line Cermak-McCormick Place station in February with a large part of last year's rail increase. Ridership on the south leg of the Green Line rose 11.2 percent, and the Cermak stop alone pulled in 390,000 "station entries."
Yet bus ridership dropped 0.6 percent, according to agency figures, the second straight year bus trips declined. The CTA blamed the slight decline on Downtown construction and last year's Groundhog Day snowstorm, and pointed to how bus ridership fell an even more drastic 8 percent the previous year, in an even more brutal and far more extensive winter.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel credited the overall ridership increase to $5 billion invested in the agency under his administration, including a new Ventra app and 4G wireless on the Blue Line and Red Line subways, as well as the late-year addition of the Loop Link Downtown and the return of express buses on Ashland and Western avenues.
"The historic levels of CTA train ridership demonstrate the success that our investment in transit is paying dividends for riders,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Rail transportation is an increasingly attractive option for customers because we’re committed to operating a world-class transit system that efficiently links residents to professional and educational opportunities, while creating local jobs that sustain our local economy.”
“We continue to see record demand for safe, reliable and affordable transit in Chicago, at the same time the CTA continues to execute Mayor Emanuel’s historic transit investment to modernize the CTA and enhance service for customers,” added CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. “I’m pleased that these accomplishments have been made as we’ve continued to keep fares low and maintain financial stability at CTA."
It was the eighth straight year CTA ridership topped 500 million, with many of those years producing new records.
Yet the move to public transit also reflects national trends, according to a University of Michigan study released last month, with millennials increasingly reluctant to even get a driver's license or own their own cars, and middle-aged drivers joining that trend over the last six years.