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Chicago Transit Authority

Chicago Transit Authority
A CTA Red Line train
Founded October 1, 1947
Headquarters 567 West Lake Street, West Loop, Chicago, Illinois
Locale Chicago metropolitan area
Service type Bus and Rapid Transit
Routes Bus: 140, Rail: 8
Fleet Bus: 1,879, Rail: 1,190
Daily ridership

Bus: 872,090, Rail: 787,430

Total: 1.66 million (June 2015)
Fuel type Diesel, Diesel-electric hybrid
Operator Self
Chief executive Dorval L. Carter, Jr.[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, including the trains of the Chicago 'L' and CTA bus service.

The CTA is an Illinois independent governmental agency[2] 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 Company 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.


  • Operations 1
  • Fare collection 2
    • Cash 2.1
    • Transit Cards 2.2
    • Ventra 2.3
  • Connections - CTA TV show 3
  • Equipment 4
    • History 4.1
    • Active bus fleet 4.2
      • Bus garages 4.2.1
    • Active 'L' rolling stock 4.3
  • CTA Radio Operations 5
  • Security and safety 6
  • Technology 7
  • Public art 8
    • Arts in Transit 8.1
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Annual passenger boardings on CTA buses and trains from 1988 to 2012

The Chicago Transit Authority provides service to Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs. The CTA provided a total of 532 million rides in 2011,[3] a 3 percent increase over 2010 with ridership rising to levels not seen for 20 years.[4]

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.[5]

Currently, the CTA operates within Chicago and immediate suburbs Forest Park, Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park, Summit, Cicero, and Skokie.

Fare collection

View of the "L" from Adams/Wabash in the Loop.
The junction at the northwest corner of the Loop.

The CTA allows riders to board a bus and pay with cash, or the Ventra Card. As for trains, riders are allowed to pay with a Ventra Card, a Ventra Ticket, or a contactless credit or debit 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 it is no longer available.


Only buses allow riders to pay with cash. The fare is $2.25 (since 1 January 2009), and no cash transfers are 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). No fare to kids under 7 with fare-paying rider; limit is 3.

Transit Cards

The CTA no longer sells Transit Cards. All remaining Transit Cards must have been used by July 1, 2014.[6] However, the CTA is in the process of switching to the Ventra Card system. The Ventra Card can be purchased online, at any Ventra card machine at CTA stations, or at authorized retailers.


Ventra is an electronic fare payment system for the Chicago Transit Authority and Pace that replaced the Chicago Card and the Transit Card automated fare collection system. Ventra (purportedly Latin for "windy," though the actual Latin word is ventosa)[7] launched in August 2013, with a full system transition slated for July 1, 2014.[8][9] The Ventra payment system includes several options of payment, including a contactless smart card powered by RFID, a single day or use ticket powered by RFID, any personal bank-issued credit card or debit card that has an RFID chip, and a compatible Mobile phone.[10] Ventra is operated by Cubic Transportation Systems.[11]

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.[12] Individual segments from Connections are available on the CTA Connections YouTube channel.


As mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 for all transit operators in the U.S., all CTA buses are handicap accessible, and the ramp on every bus is available for use upon request by anyone who has trouble with steps, even temporarily. The majority of train stations CTA operates have elevators or ramps to provide access for customers with disabilities. All trains include accessible rail cars.

CTA provides the means to view alerts regarding elevator status at the CTA's Elevator Status Alerts page ( or by calling an Elevator Status Hotline at 1-888-YOUR-CTA. Accessibility alert notifications also appear, by default, in CTA "Train Tracker", a station arrival prediction tool appearing on its website.


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.[13] 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).[13] 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.[13][14]

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.[15]

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), composed the majority of 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 1995.

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

In 2014, the CTA received their first electric buses from New Flyer, making the CTA the first major U.S. transit agency to use electric buses as part of a regular service.[16]

Active bus fleet

Year Fleet Series Quantity Manufacturer
Length Chassis
Fuel Propulsion Garage (s)
2000–2003 6400–6883
(being retired)
480* NovaBus
40 ft (12 m)
  • Cummins ISC
    • ZF 5HP552C
Diesel Chicago, Forest Glen
2006–2009 1000–2029 1,030 New Flyer
40 ft (12 m)
  • Cummins ISM
    • ZF 6HP592C
    • ZF 6HP594C
Diesel 103rd, 74th, 77th, Chicago, Kedzie, North Park
2006 800–809 10 New Flyer
40 ft (12 m)
  • Cummins ISL
    • Allison EP-40 HybriDrive system
Hybrid Kedzie
2008–2009 4000–4207 208 New Flyer
60 ft (18 m)
  • Cummins ISL
    • Allison EP-50 HybriDrive system
Hybrid 103rd, Chicago, Kedzie, North Park
2012–2013 4300–4332 33 New Flyer
60 ft (18 m)
  • Cummins ISL9
    • Allison EP-50 HybriDrvie system
Hybrid 103rd, North Park
2012–2013 4333–4399 67 New Flyer
60 ft (18 m)
  • Cummins ISL9
    • ZF 6AP1700B
Diesel North Park
2014 700–701 2 New Flyer
40 ft (12 m) TBD Electric Kedzie
<<< Delivery in progress >>>
2014–2015 7900–8324 425 NovaBus
40 ft (12 m)
  • Cummins ISL9
    • ZF 6AP1400B
Diesel 74th, 77th, Chicago


  • * = Four buses retired from original 2000-2002 order
  • Source: Chicago Transit Authority Presentation on Alternative Fuels, April 20th, 2009, p. 4 (accessed 1 July 2009), unless otherwise indicated.
  • Some individual numbers may no longer be in service.
  • See Chicago Transit and Railfan for historic rosters.

Bus garages

1000-series New Flyer bus
A newly delivered 4300-series New Flyer bus is being used as a shuttle for the Wells Street Bridge Reconstruction
Two newly delivered 4300-series New Flyer buses are being used as shuttles for the Wells Street Bridge Reconstruction
  • Forest Glen Garage, 5419 W. Armstrong Avenue, (Elston/Bryn Mawr)
  • North Park Garage, 3112 W. Foster Avenue, (Foster/Albany)
  • Chicago Garage, 642 N. Pulaski Road, (Chicago/Pulaski)
  • Kedzie Garage, 358 S. Kedzie Avenue, (Van Buren/Kedzie)
  • 74th Garage, 1815 W. 74th Street, (74th/Wood)
  • 77th Garage, 210 W. 79th Street, (79th/Wentworth)
  • 103rd Garage, 1702 E. 103rd Street, (103rd/Stony Island)

Active 'L' rolling stock

  • 10 prototypes were received in 2009, and entered passenger testing in April 2010, with 396 more to be ordered once the test were completed.[17]
  • 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.[18]
Series Year Manufacturer Assigned Lines Handicapped/disabled access Quantity Notes
2600-series 1981–1987 Budd Company, rebuilt by Alstom, 1998–2002 Blue, Orange, Red Yes 517
3200-series 1992–1994 Morrison-Knudsen Orange, Brown Yes 253
5000-series 2009–2015 Bombardier Transportation Pink, Green, Red, Yellow, Purple Yes 714
7000-series 2018–TBA Unknown Yes TBA

CTA Radio Operations

Channel Frequency Usage
Ch. 1 472.93750 CPD Transit Detail
Ch. 2 470.98750 Rail Emergency
Ch. 3 470.53750 Supervisors - North (includes buses)
Ch. 4 470.63750 Supervisors - South (includes buses)
Ch. 5 471.03750 Blue Line Operations (Forest Park & O'Hare) & Pink Line Operations (54/Cermak & the Loop)
Ch. 6 471.06750 Green Line Operations (Harlem/Lake, East/63rd & Ashland/63rd) & Orange Line Operations (Midway & the Loop)
Ch. 7 471.08750 Brown Line Operations (Kimball & the Loop), Purple Line Operations (Linden, Howard & the Loop) & Yellow Line Operations (Skokie & Howard)
Ch. 8 471.11250 Red Line Operations (Howard & 95/Dan Ryan)
Ch. 9 44.54000 Rail Operations

Security and safety

After the September 11 attacks, CTA announced its "If you See Something, Say Something" campaign.[19] CTA has also installed a security camera network,[20] and a system to send real time images from cameras in buses directly to emergency responders.[21]

CTA has also been actively prosecuting vandals, announcing on several occasions that felony convictions were obtained against persons who spray painted authority vehicles.[22]

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


The CTA has, within the past few years, 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.[23]

CTA has also made its Bus Tracker and other developer tools available,[24] and is making Bus Tracker arrival data available through text messaging.[25] 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.[26] Using the developer API published by CTA, some augmented CTA bus tracking applications have been developed for mobile phones,[27] and CTA has its own Transit App Center, featuring applications developed by others. CTA also has a train tracker (Beta starting January 2011), and it can also be accessed through a computer, smart phone, or text messaging.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Most recent ridership information is provided in the President's, Budget, and Financial Reports on the Board Presentations page of CTA's website.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ CTA Videos - Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  13. ^ a b c Sebree, Mac; and Ward, Paul (1974). The Trolley Coach in North America, pp. 49–60. Los Angeles: Interurbans. LCCN 74-20367.
  14. ^ Murray, Alan (2000). World Trolleybus Encyclopaedia, p. 79. Yateley, Hampshire, UK: Trolleybooks. ISBN 0-904235-18-1.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^

External links

  • Chicago Transit Authority - official site, including a trip planner, and system maps.
  • CTA Connections - official CTA YouTube channel.
  • CTA on Google Maps
  • Public Art online gallery
  • CTA timetables in Stopango
  • CTA Bus Tracker
  • Ventra - Contactless and convenient way to pay for transit
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