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Ridership survey finds challenges for Chicago region after COVID

A significant majority of lapsed riders expect to resume their pre-COVID level of transit use, but telecommuting is likely to continue.
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New transit ridership survey results indicate that about 80% of transit users who stopped riding during the pandemic plan on returning to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and the region's Pace bus service if COVID-19 concerns diminish.

But the results also indicate telecommuting may continue at higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to a news release.

A new report from the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) summarizes responses by 5,637 current and lapsed riders. In two stages during November 2020 and January 2021, the survey collected data about travel behavior, attitudes and preferences.

The survey is the first one conducted regionwide of current and lapsed transit riders since the pandemic began. The report defines "current riders" as those using transit at least once weekly. "Lapsed riders" use transit less than once weekly now but had used it at least once weekly prior to March 2020.

 By gauging lapsed riders' willingness to resume using transit, the survey will inform planning and policies of the RTA, CTA, Metra, Pace and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Since early in the pandemic, the RTA has maintained a COVID Transit Dashboard to track trends including ridership, which as of March 1 is down 71% compared to the pre-pandemic baseline, according to the release.

The survey results confirm:

  •  Telecommuting has been more common during the pandemic than before.
  • Significant numbers of transit riders stopped using CTA, Metra, and Pace altogether during the pandemic and had not yet shown signs of returning by January 2021.
  • Essential on-site workers, people who identify as Black and Latino and riders experiencing low-income have been most reliant on transit during the pandemic.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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