CTA ridership up 56% from COVID pandemic lows, riders concerned about face masks

CHICAGO (WLS) -- CTA riderships is up substantially since the beginning of the year as the city reopens and more people get vaccinated.

"It's a lot of people and it's good to see. Good to see the city come back to life," said CTA ride Raza Lamb.

It's not near pre-pandemic levels, but according to the CTA, ridership is up 56% since the start of the year. They are now seeing 4 million rides per week with rail use skyrocketing compared to the height of the pandemic, especially trips to the Loop.

"The increase of ridership of more than 55% since the start of the year is really a reflection of the critical role that public transportation plays in a regions economic recovery," said CTA spokesperson Catherine Hosinski.

But with June ridership averaging 600,000 rides per weekday according to the CTA, some riders said they're concerned about COVID and federal mask mandate enforcement on public transit.

"It makes me worry about it, I'm not gonna lie, 'cause I know that the numbers decreased, but it makes me wonder if the way that these people are acting - not wearing their masks - it might go back up," said CTA rider Carson Chavez.

The CTA said in terms of mask enforcement, bus drivers and train operators may ask you to put on a mask, there are audio reminders on buses and trains, signage posted at station platforms and on buses, as well as free masks available for riders without one.

"Really our emphasis in enforcement of the mask mandate is through education and awareness efforts across our system," Hosinski said.

And you cannot be denied a ride if you don't have a mask.

"It's impossible. Nor do they want the conflict, because you never know what else they have in addition to the mask, which is another issue about safety," said 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney.

But Tunney said he believes the majority of people are wearing their masks on public transit. And that's what we saw anecdotally as well, spending a few hours outside of the CTA platform and bus stops in Lakeview.

"I think people are still being pretty good about it. You'll see when I'm on a bus or a train you'll see one or two people usually that aren't wearing a mask, but I would say most people are still obeying the rules," said CTA rider Raza Lamb.
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