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CTAgeddon...Eckkkk!

The elephant in the room is...drum roll...ridership levels are still at only 50% of pre-pandemic levels. That's unsustainable baby.


Cities can't fill their office space, can't fill public transit, and still have crime issues. People will continue to work remotely (at least part of the time) putting continued pressure on large urban centers to adapt. Not looking great.


CTA progress report


CTA leaders say they've improved services by adding starting bonuses and raising wages to attract more bus drivers.

One year after unveiling a post-pandemic plan to improve transit services and safety, the head of the CTA says the agency is making progress.


Why it matters: The CTA is struggling to bounce back from low ridership during the height of the pandemic, which led to empty trains and buses being used as shelter for homeless people, along with an uptick in crime.


Driving the news: CTA president Dorval Carter on Friday trumpeted improvements in both train and bus service so far this year, compared with 2022, as well as a decrease in crime on the CTA.


The big picture: Fixing the CTA is a priority for Mayor Brandon Johnson, and his administration will be judged in part on how well the agency can serve the city over the next four years.


By the numbers: The CTA says it's run 96% of its scheduled buses so far this year, compared with about 82% in 2022. For trains, that number jumped to about 88% from 71%.


Between the lines: The agency attributes these improvements to more staff, including elevating more part-time bus drivers to full time, and increasing starting pay for bus and train operators to about $30 an hour.


The CTA also altered schedules from before the pandemic in order to better match bus and train service with the number of operators available, the Tribune reports.

Carter says the installation of more security on buses and trains has led to a 21% decrease of violent crime from this time last year.


Yes, but: Ridership is still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, given 2022's year-end total of 243.5 million rides, about half of 2019 ridership levels.


From this January to June, CTA counted about 132 million bus and train rides.

Meanwhile, Commuters Take Action, an advocacy group that pushes for better service, regularly shares complaints from riders who are still experiencing incredibly long waits for trains and buses, and passengers who were "ghosted" by buses or trains that never arrived.


The group runs a CTA reliability report that uses the agency's own data about when trains and buses actually arrive compared against when they're scheduled.

What's ahead: The CTA and other transit providers are facing a potential $730 million annual budget gap by 2026 as COVID relief money dries up.


The Regional Transit Authority — which oversees CTA, Metra and Pace —is expected in the coming weeks to release recommendations to help it avoid the financial cliff.

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