Regional Transportation Authority - Chicago

IL: Peer Reports Show RTA System Ranks Ahead in Efficiency, Reliability Despite Severe Funding Needs

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) announced April 17 that – compared to other large cities – the Chicago area’s mass transit system performs well when it comes to efficiency, cost and reliability, according to a national peer transportation report card.

These rankings come despite a severe capital shortfall estimated to be more than $33.4 billion.  The report also found that in 2012, for only the third time in the past 20 years, RTA riders collectively traveled more than 4 billion miles a year, ranking second to New Yorkers who traveled 17.9 billion miles.

The 2012 RTA Regional Peer Report Card – which incorporates information submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – ranked the performance of Chicago-area transit in the top three of eight of the 15 measures reviewed.  The Sub-Regional Peer Report looks at each service mode separately, comparing them to five similar peer agencies. The high rankings for the CTA, Metra and Pace come despite the fact that the mass transit agencies operate some of the oldest trains and buses in the nation and have not received sufficient funding to replace them.

The report shows that 30 percent of the region’s buses, trains, vans and paratransit vehicles have reached the end of their minimum useful life.  CTA, Metra and Pace will require $33.4 billion over the next decade in new equipment, maintenance and infrastructure to maintain a state of good repair and keep buses and trains running efficiently.

“Despite the lack of capital investment, public transportation in Chicago and the suburbs ranks exceedingly well and out performs nearly every big-city transportation system in the country,” said RTA Acting Executive Director Leanne Redden. “We have achieved these high marks and have increased our ridership despite the fact that many trains and buses are beyond their expected service life. The report demonstrates that we’re succeeding in doing more with less to ensure we maintain the equipment so it operates safely and efficiently for our riders.”

As part of the Regional Report, Chicago’s transit system was matched up against Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

Maintenance and Capital Investment

  • Although 30 percent of the region’s vehicles have reached their minimum useful life defined by the FTA (12 years for buses; 25 years for rail cars), vehicles used by the CTA, Metra and Pace traveled the furthest without experiencing major mechanical failures. The RTA system’s buses and trains traveled an average of 27,513 miles in between breakdowns, ahead of second-ranked Boston at 24,533 miles and the least reliable – Atlanta at 7,704.
  • There is not enough capital investment in the RTA’s transit system.  Chicago invests $64 per resident compared to $240 per resident in New York City and $85 per resident in Los Angeles.

Efficiency and Effectiveness

  • The Chicago area ranked at the top of the list when it comes to service efficiency and effectiveness with an operating cost per passenger mile (the total operating cost divided by the total miles traveled by passengers) at 54 cents per mile.
  • The RTA region, which includes six counties, rated sixth – the same as in 2011 – with an average operating cost of $3.45 per passenger trip. The highest was Dallas at $6.52 and the lowest was New York at $2.62.

Service and Ridership Coverage

  • Ridership continues to show growth following the downturn after the financial crisis in 2008. In 2012, for the third time in the past 20 years, RTA riders collectively traveled more than 4 billion miles annually.  That ranked second compared to New Yorkers at 17.9 billion miles. 
  • Chicago area passengers boarded buses or trains 659 million times in 2012, ranking third among the big cities. By comparison, New York residents took a total of 3.9 billion rides while Dallas residents took the fewest rides at 78 million trips.

Sub-Regional Peer Report

  • CTA, Metra and Pace performed strongly when it came to efficiency and effectiveness compared to their peer groups.
  • CTA bus and Pace Suburban bus have for the lowest operating costs per vehicle revenue hour in their peer groups.
  • Metra and CTA rail had the lowest operating cost per passenger mile in their peer groups.
  • Metra performed better than the peer average for all measures of service coverage and efficiency and effectiveness.  However, despite its significant fare increase in 2012, Metra remains below its peer average for fare revenue per passenger trip and fare revenue per passenger mile.
  • Pace’s paratransit service for disabled passengers performed better than the peer average in passenger trips per vehicle hour and operating cost per passenger trip, demonstrating efficiency in the scheduling and dispatch of these cost-intensive services.

Regional Peer Report Card

  • Ridership continues to show growth following the downturn after the financial crisis in 2008.
  • In 2012, for the third time in the past 20 years, RTA riders traveled over 4 billion miles, second only to New York City:
  • There is not enough capital investment in the system.  Chicago invests $64 per resident compared to $240 per resident in New York City and $85 per resident in Los Angeles:

Sub-Regional Peer Report

  • Each of the Service Boards performs strongly in efficiency and effectiveness compared to its peer group. 
  • CTA bus ranked first among its peers for operating cost per passenger trip and for operating cost per vehicle revenue hour (meaning its cost was the least), and Pace bus ranked first among its peers for operating cost per vehicle revenue hour (also meaning its cost was the lowest):

Sub-Regional Peer Report

  • CTA rail and Metra have among the oldest vehicle fleets of their peers, yet they are maintained well and provide reliable service.
  • Miles traveled between major mechanical failures is a top performance metric for both CTA rail and Metra:

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