Skip to main content


10 years of CTA Red Line use shows increased ridership, but not for all stations

CTA ridership has increased in each of the last 16 months, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool announced last week.

We wanted to examine ridership across a number of years, and have used the Red Line as a case study since it's commonly referred to as the 'work horse' of the CTA's "L" lines.

(WBEZ/Matt Connolly and Elliott Ramos)
Source: City of Chicago Data Portal Site
*2012 numbers reflect ridership from Jan. 1 2012 to June 30 2012

Last week's announcement was made at the Morse Red Line station, which was newly rehabilitated as part of the $86 million Red North Interim Improvement project. Six other North Side stations – Jarvis, Granville, Thorndale, Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence – are getting a similar treatment.

These stations are among the least-used on the Red Line, according to a WBEZ analysis of publicly available CTA ridership data going back to 2001. In 2011, Jarvis, Argyle and Thorndale were last in total ridership. Lawrence, Berwyn and Granville were also in the bottom 10, while Morse was 12th least-used.

The above holds true for total ridership over the past decade, though all North Side stations have seen ridership improvements from their 2001 levels. The biggest improvement across the Red Line came from Lake, which gained nearly 1.5 million riders from 2001 to 2011. This was enough to push it from the third most popular Red Line station in 2001 (behind 95th/Dan Ryan and Chicago) to first in 2011.

95th/Dan Ryan, 2001’s most-used station, dropped to fifth-most used in 2011 (behind Lake, Chicago, Fullerton and Belmont). It is one of only five stations to see ridership declines in the past decade – all are on the city’s South Side. The others are 87th, 69th, 63rd and Garfield.

These are five of the nine South Side stations that will be closed for five months starting in spring 2013 as part of a $425 million CTA track replacement project. The closure will impact every station from Cermak-Chinatown through 95th/Dan Ryan.

Grid: The most popular stations over 10 years

(WBEZ/Elliott Ramos)
Source: City of Chicago Data Portal Site




Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.