The RTA transit system is pressed for capacity in the downtown Chicago commute market, but has available capacity in the off-peak times and in parts of the region outside of downtown Chicago. Thoughtful market development initiatives can be targeted at growing markets while still being mindful of transit’s limited capital funding.
The RTA has developed several studies related to the transit market in the six-county region, and continues to monitor emerging market opportunities to grow ridership on the existing transit system.
The 2018-2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan, Invest in Transit, articulates three overriding goals for the region – Deliver value on our investment, Build on the strength of our network, and Stay competitive. The third goal, Stay competitive, focuses on the vital role that transit plays as a part of the region’s mobility network and promotes strategies to meet the evolving needs of riders. A component of this strategy is to test how technology and partnerships with new mobility providers can improve conditions for riders in traditionally difficult to serve transit markets, such as the last-mile of reverse commute trips.
As a part of this effort, the RTA has formed pilot partnerships with new mobility providers. Read more about recently completed mobility pilots in Oak Brook and Bannockburn in a report published in May 2021. See all mobility pilots the RTA is funding, or has funded, on an interactive story map. Or, read a blog post about how these mobility pilots are improving commute options for riders.
The RTA has prepared summaries of market segments that are promising areas for increasing transit ridership on the existing transit system. The markets currently being monitored include:
Chicago Area Visitor Survey
In August-September 2014, the RTA surveyed over 3,600 people touring the major visitor sites in the Chicago area to better understand how they get around and their attitudes about Chicago’s transit system. The report details the survey findings and provides recommendations for the regional transit agencies to pursue for increased ridership.
The survey results show that transit is well-used by visitors, who find transit convenient and less stressful and costly than driving. Residents of the six-county Chicago region who take trips to “see the sights” take multiple trips per year (28% took more than 12 of these trips annually) and therefore represent repeat customers. Visitors from outside of the region also use transit heavily and take many trips during their visit, but expressed some need for additional information.
Market Analysis Study
In 2009, the RTA conducted a market analysis of travel in the six-county region. The study examined the combined responses of 13,000 regional households to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Household Travel Tracker survey and a 2009 RTA-commissioned attitudinal survey of riders and non-riders.
The analysis shows that more than 26 million trips are made on an average weekday in our region. The region’s travel patterns are highly geographically dispersed with over 60% of travel occurring within the suburban region. While transit accounts for approximately 6% of all trips, 38% of households in the region report using transit over the course of a regular week. Transit serves a critical role in the region’s economy as it connects people with jobs, serving 14% of work trips. Survey findings indicate a broad base of support for transit investment. This support was even found to be true among those who do not take transit, pointing to the growing appreciation that the general public has for the broad reaching benefits of transit.