Category Archives: CTA

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 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:


Fare Type Regular Senior
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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Filed under Charts/Graphs, CTA

Chicago Transit Authority Budget & Fares

Public transit has come a long way since its earliest days in Chicago. Original horse drawn service began in 1859. By 1947, the Chicago Transit Authority is granted the exclusive right to own and operate a unified, local transportation service and became the sole operator of Chicago transit. According to the Chicago Transit website, today, the CTA operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system. To some, it is an everyday means of travel, to work, school, friends, and/or all sorts of attractions. It opens up the city to everyday consumers, rain or shine, night or day, and aims for affordable access for everyone.

There are over 1.6 million people who depend on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) as a means of transportation on an average weekday. The 2011 budget estimated systemwide ridership to be 521.8 million, with a projected ridership that will end the year at 524.4 million, meaning there is a slight increase in ridership this year than estimated. The CTA has been able to provide a public option of transportation for the city of Chicago. Whether it is using this form of transportation around downtown, or to the 40 suburban communities that are also accessible, the CTA attempts to offer a quality and affordable transit service to serve the people. However, just as most businesses have been hit hard with the recession, the CTA is no exception. The CTA faces monumental financial complications.

According to a press release from the CTA, “Throughout the budget process, our goal has been to manage responsibly and make strategic budget decisions so that we can weather this recession and still provide the critical, affordable services that so many working men and women rely on,” said Chicago Transit Authority President Richard L. Rodriguez. Rodriguez supported the 2010 budget cuts made in order to not increase the current fare price for consumers. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) was created by state legislation and is the CTA’s fiscal oversight agency. Between the RTA and the State of Illinois, the RTA agreed to issue debt to provide an additional $83 million to the CTA in 2010 and 2011. This debt allowed to hold the same fare prices over those years, however, it is not predicted to reoccur in 2012. This could prove problematic and lead to fare increases in the near future for CTA riders.

The overall approval of the past budget meant service reductions, furlough days for workers, elimination of 1,100 jobs, bus service reduction by 18%, and rail service by 9%. There are currently 41 bus routes with later start times and/or earlier end times. Besides the routes cut altogether, these reduced routes (as featured on the chart) support increased planning of travel by tracking the arrival times of buses and trains. This timing was made possible with the advancements in technology. CTA Bus Tracker and CTA Train Tracker offer a way to plan your transportation online, so riders can plan accordingly to avoid to extended wait.

As previously mentioned, the Chicago Transit Authority has undergone several budget cuts in the past years. The CTA president also proposed a 1.24 billion 2012 budget recommendation plan to address the financial struggles they continue to face today. This year, escalated fuel prices and increased electric power, used for extreme weather conditions, went over budget in those allotted areas. The CTA has recovered from small setbacks due to adjustments in their budget. However, the 2012 operating budget faces bigger issues. It lacks $131.2 million that was available the previous year.  As featured in the CTA’s budget breakdown, the debt is projected to exist until 2033.

The outcome for the Chicago Transit Authority might seem problematic, but, in the past, they have made it through other financial hardships. They are currently in the process of trying to avoid further service cuts and fare increases through different measures, most articles suggest union work rule changes.

The Chicago Transit Authority offers full opportunity for consumer feedback on their website. Next year seems in need for further budget cuts. It will be interesting to see if fares end up increasing and/or the union will reach some sort of agreement with the CTA. Comparing the entrance fee to get into a cab in Chicago is about the same price as an entire trip on the CTA, I would still consider a quarter-more hypothetical price increase to be a bargain.
By Ashley Prete


Filed under Budget, Budget Problem, CTA, Finances

CTA Surface Fare History

CTA Surface Fare History

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November 10, 2011 · 6:45 pm