April 16, 2021

As our state and nation continue responding to the pandemic, public transit remains an essential service, responsible for transporting health care employees, emergency responders, and retail workers to jobs throughout the region. The RTA remains committed to keeping elected officials and stakeholders up to date about COVID-19 impacts on transit and the region’s response. Visit the RTA COVID Recovery web page for more information, and please encourage others to subscribe.

RTA reports on region-wide ridership survey

About 80 percent of "lapsed" riders intend to resume using transit, according to results from a new region-wide survey by the RTA. Read more in a press release, and see coverage by WTTW, the Chicago TribuneCrain's, and Streetsblog Chicago.

As discussed in yesterday's RTA Board meeting (see video), increased telecommuting is likely to persist according to riders surveyed from November 2020 to January 2021. The full report defines “current riders” as those using transit at least once weekly. “Lapsed riders” now use transit less than once weekly but had used it at least once weekly prior to March 2020. 

The survey also sheds light on riders’ preferences about what could drive increased transit usage. For example, speed and reliability are among their top priorities, along with improved connectivity between buses and trains across the three transit operators. Riders' input via the survey will be an important consideration as our regional strategy for COVID recovery moves toward Step 3 in May, when the RTA will initiate longer-term strategic planning through 2023 and beyond.  

Congress weighs Biden infrastructure proposal

Just before the last COVID Update e-mail was sent on March 31, the Biden administration unveiled an outline of its $2 trillion proposal for broad investments in surface transportation, water and other infrastructure. The "American Jobs Plan" sets aside $85 billion for U.S. transit systems and a further $80 billion for passenger railways. The plan’s rollout acknowledged the need to invest in existing transit infrastructure and noted the high percentage of transit assets beyond their useful life nationwide.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has indicated that approximately two-thirds of the transit investment would be directed toward state of good repair projects, with another $5 billion for transit accessibility investments. 

Of particular interest is the Biden proposal’s emphasis on electrification of transit. If funded, it would replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles nationwide with electric vehicles. In our region, those investments could help accelerate electrification efforts, possibly including CTA’s planned transition to an all-electric bus fleet by 2040. This would be an important advancement regarding the environment and public health.

We will continue to engage with the administration and the Illinois delegation as negotiations continue over the next several months.

COVID Transit Dashboard

The RTA COVID Transit Dashboard has been updated, showing that transit ridership as of March 1 is down 71 percent, while travel by all modes has decreased 27 percent compared to the pre-pandemic baseline. The average weekday ridership by mode panel shows comparisons from March 23-27, 2019 (pre-pandemic) and the same week in both 2020 (start of pandemic), and just last month in 2021. The latest available data on farebox revenue (from January 2021) has also been added.

Final reminder: Section 5310 call for projects

Applications for the Section 5310 Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program are due by April 22, 2021. The RTA administers Section 5310 funds to improve mobility for seniors and individuals with disabilities by removing barriers to transportation service and expanding transportation mobility options. For help with the application, please contact Fluturi Demirovski (312-913-3239 or 

Thank you,

Leanne Redden
RTA Executive Director
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All rights reserved.

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