Chicago Transit Authority

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Chicago Transit Authority
A CTA Red Line train
FoundedOctober 1, 1947
Headquarters567 West Lake Street, West Loop, Chicago, Illinois
Service typeBus and Rapid Transit
RoutesBus: 140, Rail: 8
FleetBus: 1,782, Rail: 1,190
Daily ridership

Bus: 1,063,433, Rail: 761,169

Total: 1.82 million (September 2011)
Fuel typeDiesel, Diesel-electric hybrid
Chief executiveForrest Claypool[1]
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Chicago Transit Authority
A CTA Red Line train
FoundedOctober 1, 1947
Headquarters567 West Lake Street, West Loop, Chicago, Illinois
Service typeBus and Rapid Transit
RoutesBus: 140, Rail: 8
FleetBus: 1,782, Rail: 1,190
Daily ridership

Bus: 1,063,433, Rail: 761,169

Total: 1.82 million (September 2011)
Fuel typeDiesel, Diesel-electric hybrid
Chief executiveForrest Claypool[1]

Chicago Transit Authority, also known as CTA, is the operator of mass transit within the City of Chicago, Illinois and some of its surrounding suburbs.

The CTA is a municipal corporation that started operations on October 1, 1947 upon the purchase and combination of the transportation assets of the Chicago Rapid Transit Company and the Chicago Surface Lines streetcar system. In 1952, CTA purchased the assets of the Chicago Motor Coach Company, which was under the control of Yellow Cab founder John D. Hertz, resulting in a fully unified system. Today, the CTA is one of the three service boards financially supported by the Regional Transportation Authority.



The Chicago Transit Authority provides service to Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs. The CTA provided a total of 620.5 million rides in 2011, a 3 percent increase over 2010 with ridership rising to levels not seen for 20 years.[2]

CTA operates 24 hours each day and on an average weekday provides 1.7 million rides on buses and trains. It has approximately 1,800 buses that operate over 140 routes traveling along 2,230 route miles (3,658 km). Buses provide about one million passenger trips a day and serve more than 12,000 posted bus stops. The Chicago Transit Authority's 1,190 train cars operate over eight routes and 222 miles (357 km) of track. Its trains provide about 750,000 customer trips each weekday and serve 144 stations in Chicago.[3]

Fare collection

Chicago Transit Authority trains serve as both elevated rapid transit, and as subway trains in parts of the city. Pictured is the Blue Line terminal in O'Hare International Airport.
Chicago Transit Authority also serves Chicago suburbs. Purple Line stations such as Central, pictured above, connect Evanston and Wilmette residents to The Loop.
Northward view of Chicago 'L' from Adams/Wabash in Chicago Loop.
CTA "Tower 18" directs Chicago's 'L' trains through the busy railway junction located in the NW corner of the loop. Here, both lines, Purple and Brown have north and southbound trains pass thru (lower left to upper right). The Pink and Green line trains cross perpendicularly, headed eastbound (lower right), into the loop, and westbound (upper left), when exiting the downtown area. The Orange line (bottom arc) always travels in the clockwise direction when in the loop. Meanwhile, directly below this municipal orchestration, the motor traffic at the intersection of Wells and Lake is all but completely sheltered by this section of the elevated railway system.

The CTA allows riders to board a bus and pay with cash, transit cards, or Chicago Cards. As for trains, riders are only allowed to pay with a transit card or a Chicago Card. In the past, one could pay $1.75 and receive a transit card on the bus. The card would be worth three bus rides, but as of today, it is no longer available. Today the card has to be purchased from a local currency exchange (such as Western Union and Checks Cashed), bus terminal, or subway platform.

Paying with cash

Only buses allow riders to pay with cash. The fare is $2.25 (as of January 1, 2009), and cash transfers are not available. Previously, some rail station turnstiles accepted cash but this feature has been removed in an effort to speed up boarding, except during sporting events at nearby 'L' stations, such as the Red Line 'L' station at Addison (near Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs) and the station for the same line at Sox–35th (across the street from U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox).

Paying with transit cards

The CTA sells transit cards online, at its headquarters, and at all rail stations.[4] They can also be purchased at a number of retail locations around Chicago and its suburbs, and at downtown Metra stations.[5] There are two types of transit cards: stored-value and unlimited rides. As of January 1, 2009 (2009-01-01) the cost of a single ride fare when using a stored-value transit card is $2.25 for train journeys or $2 for bus journeys.[6] Transfers made within 2 hours of the first ride are charged at $0.25 for the first transfer; a second transfer is free.[6] Passengers boarding at the O'Hare Airport Blue Line 'L' station pay $5 when using a full-fare magnetic strip stored-value card. Unlimited ride cards are available in one day ($10), three day ($20), seven day ($28), and thirty day ($100) increments.[6] Reduced fare transit cards available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, Chicago Public School students, Evanston Public School students, and students of certain area universities.[7]

Paying with the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus

The Chicago Card (along with the Chicago Card Plus) is a contactless smart card, powered by RFID, used by riders of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to electronically pay for bus and train fares. The Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus allow the riders to "tap" the card against a touchpad located on buses and train station turnstiles to allow faster and easier boarding.

Connections - CTA TV show

The Chicago Transit Authority produces a monthly television show, Connections. The show is broadcast on City of Chicago Public-access television cable TV channels 23 & 49, as well as on Comcast's CN100 in the Chicago media market, including areas of Michigan and Indiana. Connections features news and information about the CTA and services it provides. The program can be watched online at [1]. Individual segments from Connections are available on the CTA Connections YouTube channel.



A trolley bus serving route 85-Central in 1968

Until 1973, CTA's fleet included a large number of electric trolley buses – or "trolley coaches", as they were commonly known at the time.[8] In the 1950s, the fleet of around 700 trolley coaches was the largest such fleet in the U.S., and represented about one-quarter of CTA's total number of surface-transit vehicles (motor bus, trolley bus and, until 1958, streetcar).[8] Trolley bus service was phased out in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and trolley buses ran for the last time on March 25, 1973.[8][9]

Downtown bus stop sign

CTA buses were known as the "green limousine" or the "big green" — buses were one or more shades of green from the CTA's establishment through the end of the 1980s. With the delivery of the TMC RTS buses in 1991, a more patriotic color scheme was adopted, and the green scheme was fully phased out by 1996. A notable color scheme was the "Bicentennial" of about 1974 to 1976.[10]

CTA bought very few buses between the mid-1970s and the end of the 1980s. During this time, purchases were only made in 1979 (20 MAN/AM General articulated buses), 1982-83 (200 Flyer D901 buses and 125 additional MAN articulateds), and 1985 (362 MAN Americana standard-length buses). Another aspect of this period was that with the exception of the 1979 and 1983 MAN orders, none of those buses had air-conditioning, a budget saving move by the CTA. The 1972-76 fleet of GM "New Look" buses, 1870 total, which were originally air-conditioned (although there were problems with the air-conditioning systems, resulting in their eventually being disabled and sliding windows installed in the buses), comprised the majority vehicles in service into the early 1990s.

Today CTA's current fleet of buses is mostly dominated by New Flyer's D40LF, which replaced buses that were built in 1991 and some built in 1995.

The heavy rail orders of the CTA include the last railcar stock built by the Budd Company and one of the few examples of rail cars built by Boeing-Vertol. The next order is from Bombardier.

Active bus fleet

YearFleet SeriesQuantityManufacturer
Fuel PropulsionGarage (s)
40 ft (12 m)
  • Cummins ISC
    • ZF 5HP552C
Diesel74th, 77th, Chicago, Forest Glen
30 ft (9.1 m)Diesel103rd, Forest Glen
2006–20091000–20291,030New Flyer
40 ft (12 m)
  • Cummins ISM
  • Cummins ISL
    • ZF 6HP592C
    • ZF 6HP594C
Diesel103rd, 74th, 77th, Chicago, Forest Glen, Kedzie, North Park
2006–2007800–809 900–90920New Flyer
40 ft (12 m)
  • Cummins ISL (2006)
  • Cummins ISB (2007)
    • Allison EP-40 HybriDrive system (2006)
    • ISE Thundervolt HybriDrive system (2007)
2008–20094000–4207208New Flyer
60 ft (18 m)
  • Cummins ISL
    • Allison EP-50 HybriDrive system
Hybrid103rd, Kedzie, North Park
<<< Delivery In Progress >>>
2012-20134300–433233New Flyer
60 ft (18 m)
  • Cummins ISL9
    • Allison EP-50 HybriDrvie system
Hybrid103rd, Kedzie
2012-20134333–439967New Flyer
60 ft (18 m)
  • Cummins ISL9
    • Allison WB-500R
Diesel103rd, Kedzie
<<< Future Orders >>>
2013TBD2New Flyer
40 ft (12 m)TBDElectricTBA
40 ft (12 m)TBDDieselTBA


Bus garages

A #147 CTA bus

Active 'L' rolling stock

SeriesYearManufacturerAssigned LinesHandicapped/disabled accessQuantityNotes
2200 series1969–1970Budd CompanyBlueNo84
  • To be retired soon
2400 series1976–1978Boeing-VertolGreen, Purple, Red, OrangeYes190
  • To be retired soon
2600 series1981–1987Budd CompanyRed, Blue, Yellow, Purple, BrownYes589
3200 series1992–1994Morrison-KnudsenOrange, BrownYes255
<<< Ordering Process >>>
5000 series2009–2015Bombardier TransportationPink, Green, RedYes714[citation needed]
  • 10 prototypes were received in 2009, and entered passenger testing in April 2010, with 396 more to be ordered once the test were completed.[11]
  • On July 20, 2011, CTA announced the order of 300 more railcars, bringing the total ordered to 706 at a cost of about US$1 billion.[12]

CTA Radio Operations

Ch. 1472.93750CPD Transit Detail
Ch. 2470.98750Rail Emergency
Ch. 3470.53750Supervisors - North (includes buses)
Ch. 4470.63750Supervisors - South (includes buses)
Ch. 5471.03750Blue Line Operations (Forest Park & O'Hare) & Pink Line Operations (54/Cermak & the Loop)
Ch. 6471.06750Green Line Operations (Harlem/Lake, East/63rd & Ashland/63rd) & Orange Line Operations (Midway & the Loop)
Ch. 7471.08750Brown Line Operations (Kimball & the Loop), Purple Line Operations (Linden, Howard & the Loop) & Yellow Line Operations (Skokie & Howard)
Ch. 8471.11250Red Line Operations (Howard & 95/Dan Ryan)
 44.54000Rail Operations

Security and safety

After the September 11 attacks, CTA announced its "If you See Something, Say Something" campaign.[13] CTA has also installed a security camera network,[14] and a system to send real time images from cameras in buses directly to emergency responders.[15]

CTA has also been actively prosecuting vandals, announcing on several occasions that felony convictions were obtained against persons who spray painted authority vehicles.[16]

See also Chicago 'L' concerning incidents on the rapid transit system.


The CTA has, within the past few years,[when?] installed GPS Bus Tracker systems on all buses. The original claim justifying the addition of this technology was that it would reduce the issue of bunching buses. The system also allows riders to be able to determine the location of buses online.

A report prepared by the CTA claims that there was a decrease in bus bunching from 3.9% to 2.3% from 2007 to 2009, but the report neither demonstrated a direct connection between Bus Tracker and this reduction in bunching, nor did it show whether this was a temporary or permanent phenomenon.[17]

CTA has also made its Bus Tracker and other developer tools available,[18] and is making Bus Tracker arrival data available through text messaging.[19] One of the first applications of the Bus Tracker Developer Tools involved the installation of monitors showing the information in several businesses in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood.[20] Using the developer API published by CTA, some augmented CTA bus tracking applications have been developed for mobile phones,[21] and CTA has its own Transit App Center, featuring applications developed by others. CTA also has a train tracker (Beta starting January 2011) but can only be accessed through a computer or a smart phone.[22]

Public art

The CTA is home to a collection of art – including mosaics, sculptures and paintings. More than 50 pieces of art are exhibited at over 40 CTA stations.[23]

According to the CTA's website, the original pieces of artwork contribute to each station’s identity and enhance travel for customers. Art promotes a friendly, inviting atmosphere for these stations, which serve as gateways to the communities they serve.

Many of the pieces are a result of the Arts in Transit Program, which is funded by the Federal Transit Administration and coordinated locally through the City of Chicago’s Office of Tourism and Culture. A number of other pieces were created through the CTA’s Adopt-A-Station program and through partnerships with organizations such as the Chicago Public Art Group. [24]

Arts in Transit

In 2004, the CTA and the City of Chicago Public Art Program installed nine permanent works of art at eight renovated rail stations on what is now known as the Pink Line. The CTA has since created an ongoing program to showcase permanent works of art in conjunction with the City of Chicago Public Art Program. The Arts in Transit Program is funded by the Federal Transit Administration, and created opportunities to develop original artwork for station reconstruction projects along the CTA Red and Brown Lines. Artists were selected for each of the stations included in the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project and select renovated Red Line stations. By the completion of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project in 2010, original artwork was installed in each of the 18 renovated stations along the CTA's Brown Line. By combining the visibility and accessibility of the city's mass transit system with the creativity of Chicago's art resources, this program resulted in a successful public display of professional works of art designed with input from nearby communities. This program provided high profile locations for public art and server as a gateway to communities served by the CTA stations. Media under consideration included, but were not limited to, mosaics, art glass, ornamental fencing, mixed-media artwork, and freestanding sculpture and furniture. The CTA and the City of Chicago Public Art Program, administered by the Office of Tourism and Culture, encouraged and facilitated collaborations between artists, government agencies, the community and other partners. The City of Chicago Public Art Program accepted qualifications from local and national professional artists or artist teams capable of creating permanent public works of art for the CTA Arts in Transit Program for the renovated stations.

CTA promotes its Public Art with a video and online gallery.

See also


  1. ^ "Chicago Transit Board Names Forrest Claypool as New CTA President" (Press release). Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  2. ^ "CTA ridership jumps to highest level in 20 years".,0,4923536.story. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  3. ^ Most recent ridership information is provided in the President's, Budget, and Financial Reports on the Board Presentations page of CTA's website.
  4. ^ "Where to Buy Fares". Chicago Transit Authority website. Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  5. ^ "List of Transit Card & Unlimited Ride Pass retail sales outlets". Chicago Transit Authority website. Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  6. ^ a b c "Complete Fare Chart". Chicago Transit Authority website. Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  7. ^ "Reduced Far & Free Ride Programs". Chicago Transit Authority website. Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  8. ^ a b c Sebree, Mac; and Ward, Paul (1974). The Trolley Coach in North America, pp. 49–60. Los Angeles: Interurbans. LCCN 74-20367.
  9. ^ Murray, Alan (2000). World Trolleybus Encyclopaedia, p. 79. Yateley, Hampshire, UK: Trolleybooks. ISBN 0-904235-18-1.
  10. ^ "Harry Gershen photograph at".
  11. ^ "CTA to Begin In-Service Testing of New Rail Cars" (Press release). CTA. April 15, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-16.
  12. ^ "Chicago orders 300 more 5000-series metro cars". Railway Gazette International. July 20, 2011. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  13. ^ "CTA Security & Safety". CTA.
  14. ^ "Mayor Daley, CTA and CPD Officials Test Mobile Security Network" (Press release). CTA. 2006-12-02.
  15. ^ "CTA to Test Mobile Security Network to Enhance Safety on System" (Press release). CTA. 2006-03-16.
  16. ^ "Vandal Sentenced to Prison for Defacing CTA Property" (Press release). CTA. 2008-03-21.
    "CTA Vandal Receives Felony Conviction for Criminal Defacement and Trespass" (Press release). CTA. 2007-12-19.
  17. ^ Ben Meyerson (December 16, 2009). "Bus bunching down 40% since 2007, CTA report says". Chicago Current.
  18. ^ "Developer Center". CTA.
  19. ^ "CTA Bus Tracker Information Now Available On-Demand via New Text Messaging Feature" (Press release). CTA. December 22, 2009.
  20. ^ Steve Bryant (December 14, 2009). "Bus Trackers Installed at Wicker Park Shops". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 12-22-2009.
  21. ^ "Search Results for 'cta'". Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  22. ^ "Transit App Center". CTA. Retrieved 05-10-2010.
  23. ^ "Online Gallery - Public Art on CTA". CTA.
  24. ^ "Public Art on CTA - video". CTA.

External links