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Chicago Transit vs. Los Angeles Transit

Public transit in Chicago is much like other cities, all while being much different from other cities as well. You can already figure that Chicago being the 3rd largest metropolis in the country, the public transit system must be expansive. This is true, but do all large cities have a transit system similar to Chicago’s? Well let’s see…

How about Los Angeles? To much surprise, the second-largest metropolis in the United States does not have a system as large as Chicago’s public transit system, but it does have its own complexities. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA or MTA), branded as Metro, is the public transit system serving the City of Los Angeles and some adjacent Los Angeles County communities. It ranks as the third-busiest transit system in the country behind New York City and Chicago. The system comprises of Metro Rail, Metro Liner, Metro Bus, and Transitway systems. The system can be better understood here:

Metro Rail

  • Blue Line

Opened in 1990, this is a light rail line that runs a length of 22 miles from Downtown LA, through South Central Los Angeles, Watts, Willowbrook, Compton to Long Beach. Its daily ridership is approximately 90,109 as of July 2011.

  • Red Line

Opened in 1993, this is a heavy rail subway line that runs a length of 16.4 miles from Downtown LA to North Hollywood. Its daily ridership combined with the Purple Line is approximately 179,000 as of July 2011.

  • Purple Line

Opened in 1993, this serves as a sub-line of the Red Line and runs from Downtown LA to the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles.

  • Green Line

Opened in 1995, this is a light rail line from Redondo Beach to Norwalk, CA. The line indirectly serves LAX via a shuttle bus. Its daily ridership is 45,259 as of July 2011.

  • Gold Line

Open in 2003, this is a light rail line from East Los Angeles to Pasadena by way of Downtown LA. Its daily ridership is 42,900 as of July 2011.

Metro Liner

The Metro Liner is the MTA bus rapid transit system. A bus rapid transit system (BRT) is a system used to provide faster more efficient transit than a normal bus line, similar to a rail system. The speeds of the bus systems typically match the speeds of a light rail line. In Los Angeles, the Metro Liner is used as a combination to the city’s rail lines and stop only at designated stations. This is a public transit feature that Chicago does not have. The CTA utilizes only high-capacity heavy rail lines for ‘L’ trains and the trains cover almost all areas of the city.

Metro Bus

The MTA utilizes three types of bus systems, unlike the CTA. The buses are color coded and breakdown like so:

  • Metro Local

The Metro Local buses are the closest thing to Chicago’s CTA buses. They are Orange colored and numbered and make frequent stops on major streets just like CTA routes do. There is a total of 189 bus lines and 18,500 stops in the City of Los Angeles.

  • Metro Rapid

The Metro Rapid buses are buses that are numbered and painted Red. This is something the CTA does not have. These buses have no schedule and only stop at the busiest intersections and on the busiest thoroughfares.

  • Metro Express

The Metro Express buses are composed of 2 lines, with buses painted dark blue. This is a premium service that makes stops along Los Angeles County’s freeway network.

Transitways

Transitways in Los Angeles County are shared-use bus corridors and high-occupancy vehicle roadways that run down the medians of highways. Currently there are 2 Transitway bus routes for travel throughout Los Angeles County, the El Monte Busway (opened in 1974), and the Harbor Transitway (opened 1998). Transitways are used for long-distance travel across the county, as opposed to travel within the city.

The entire system can be seen here:

Metro Rail Map:

Metro Rapid System:

Fares:

Fare Type Regular Senior
/Disabled
/Medicare
Base Fare $1.50 $.55*
Base Fare (Silver Line) $2.45 $1.15
Tokens $1.50
Metro Day Pass** $5.00 $1.80
Weekly Pass $20.00
Student Fare Card (with monthly stamp) $24.00
College/Vocational (with monthly stamp) $36.00
Monthly Pass $75.00 $14.00
Metro-to-Muni Transfer $.35 $.10
Zone charge (per zone, maximum two zones) $0.70 $0.30
Monthly zone stamp (per zone, maximum two zones) $22.00 ^

After much research and comparisons, my preconceived notions about public transit have changed. I thought that travel in Los Angeles was centered around driving, which still remains true as told by ridership totals. But their mass transit system is highly developed. The MTA differs from the CTA by one obvious factor, the CTA serves the City of Chicago and its immediate suburbs; the MTA serves the entire County of Los Angeles, which is substatially larger than Cook County. The other differentiating factor is the method of transportation each system is centered on. In Chicago, it is our ‘L’ system comprising of 8 heavy rail lines. The CTA has twice as many rail lines as Los Angeles, and none of them are light rail, giving the ‘L’ the advantage in capacity. The ‘L’ also offers 24-hour service on its 2 longest lines, and near round the clock service on all others. In Los Angeles, the transit system is centered on buses. The MTA has 7 different unique bus services that span the entire county. The MTA also utilizes the freeway system of the county, something that the CTA only does with two ‘L’ lines and not their buses. Chicago’s bus system is comprised of CTA buses and the immediate suburbs have their own bus services like Pace.

What I have determined from my research is that each system is unique to its own landscape and resident habits. Even though the MTA serves a much larger area, it is still far smaller than the CTA and used far less than the CTA. The MTA has 79.1 route miles of rail and 1,433 route miles of bus. Daily ridership of the MTA totals around 1.4 million weekly. The CTA has around 222 route miles of rail and around 2,230 route miles of bus, even though the CTA bus system is more simplistic than the MTA’s bus system. Daily ridership of the CTA is around 1.6 million weekly, even with Chicago having around 1 million less citizens. Both cities can utilize techniques from each other to better the experiences of their customers because both work well in certain respective areas.

-Calvin Nichols

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CTA Surface Fare History

CTA Surface Fare History

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November 10, 2011 · 6:45 pm

POLL: What are you most concerned about?

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