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Chicago Transit Authority, also known as CTA, is the operator of mass transit within the City of Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker and some of the suburbs. It is the second largest transit system in the United States and fourth largest in North America. The Chicago Transit Authority offers bus and rapid transit routes throughout the city, as well as to some suburban destinations.

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 hosts a television show with the host Jennean Sparrow. The show is broadcast on the City Of Chicago Public Access channel.It features news of the CTA, "Rodeo" Winners and outstanding employees of the system, a new part called Jennean's Journey exploring different neighborhoods and attractions of Chicago. The program can be watched online at


The Chicago Transit Authority covers Chicago city limits and 40 surrounding suburbs. The CTA provided a total of 499.5 million rides in 2007, a 1 percent increase (4.7 million more rides) over 2006 numbers.
CTA operates 24 hours each day and on an average weekday, 1.7 million passengers access its buses and trains. It has approximately 2,000 buses that operate over 154 routes traveling along 2,273 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 of track. Its trains provide about 650,000 customer trips each day and serve 144 stations in Chicago. The Chicago Transit Authority employs more than 11,000 people to operate the entire system. The system is the second largest urban transit system in the United States. Only the vast Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York City is more extensive.

Fare collection

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.

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 Addisonmarker (near Wrigley Fieldmarker, home of the Chicago Cubs) and the station for the same line at Sox-35thmarker (across the street from U.S.marker Cellular Fieldmarker, home of the Chicago White Sox).

Paying with transit cards

Transit cards are sold at all rail stations and at the CTA's headquarters. There are two types of transit cards: stored-value and unlimited rides. Unlimited ride cards can be purchased at the CTA headquarters and from vending machines at select CTA Stations (O'Haremarker on the Blue Line, Midwaymarker on the Orange Line, and Chicagomarker on the Red Line), as well as from a variety of retail outlets throughout the Chicago area, such as currency exchanges and select Jewel and Dominick's stores. They are available for one day ($5.75), three days ($14), seven days ($23), and thirty days ($86). There are also reduced fare cards available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, Chicago Public School students, Evanston Public School students, and students of certain area universities as well. Fare card and transit card vending machines were installed at downtown Metra train stations (Union Stationmarker, the Ogilvie Transportation Centermarker, and the LaSalle Street Stationmarker) in early 2006.

Paying with Chicago Cards

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. Prior to the fare changes instituted January 1, 2009, fares paid with the Chicago Card were less expensive than they were for other riders.

Bicycles on the CTA

Bicycles are permitted on CTA buses during all operating hours, and on CTA trains every weekday except from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, bicycles are allowed on trains all day. If you board the train with your bicycle before the hours listed above and your trip extends into those hours, the CTA allows you to finish your trip. If trains are crowded, the use of trains by cyclists may be restricted by the rail operator as appropriate. Bicycles are not permitted on trains July 3 due to Independence Day celebrations. Folding bikes may be brought aboard CTA trains and buses during all operating periods, including rush hour.

A maximum of two bicycles are allowed per train car. For example, if the train is four cars in length, a total of eight bicycles are allowed on that train.

Transit operators have the discretion to deny access to anyone with a bike if they decide that conditions are too crowded. The CTA's entire bus fleet is now equipped with bike racks in front which can accommodate two bicycles. All CTA trains accept bicycles, although bikes are discouraged on the 2200-series rail cars with "blinker doors" (if they were turned sideways, they would look like a blinking eye when opening and closing). Only standard-size bicycles are allowed on all CTA vehicles; tandems are not allowed.

Equipment history

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.

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 New Looks, 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

Number Year Model Length Quantity Engine type Headsign Garages Comments
6000-6329 1995 Flxible Metro 287 Diesel LED 74th, 103rd, Chicago, Forest Glen, Kedzie Some buses have been retired.
6400-6883 2000-2002 NovaBus LFS 480 Diesel Flip Dot / LED 77th, Archer, Forest Glen
1000-2029 2006-2009 New Flyer D40LF 1,030 Diesel LED 74th, 77th, 103rd, Chicago, Forest Glen, North Park, Kedzie
500-544 2006-2007 Optima Opus 45 Diesel LED Archer, Forest Glen
800-809 2006 New Flyer DE40LF 10 Diesel Electric LED Kedzie
900-909 2007 New Flyer DE40LF 10 Diesel Electric LED Kedzie
4000-4207 2008-2009 New Flyer DE60LF 208 Diesel Electric LED 77th, 103rd, Kedzie, North Park According to New Flyer, CTA has also approved a contract for up to 900 more, but the initial order of 140 was deferred.

CTA bus garages

  • Forest Glen Garage, 5419 W. Armstrong Ave. (Elston/Bryn Mawr)
  • North Park Garage, 3112 W. Foster Ave. (Foster/Albany)
  • Chicago Garage, 642 N. Pulaski Road (Chicago/Pulaski)
  • Kedzie Garage, 358 S. Kedzie Ave. (Van Buren/Kedzie)
  • Archer Garage, 2600 W. Pershing Road (Pershing/Archer/Rockwell)
  • 74th Garage, 1815 W. 74th St. (74th/Wood)
  • 77th Garage, 210 W. 79th St. (79th/Wentworth)
  • 103rd Garage, 1602 E. 103rd St. (103rd/Stony Island)

Active 'L' rolling stock

Class Year Manufacturer Assigned Accessible Quantity Comments
2200 Series

1969-1970 Budd Company Blue No 142
2400 Series

1976-1978 Boeing-Vertol Green, Purple 194
2600 Series 1981-1987 Budd Company Blue, Red, Pink, Purple 598
3200 Series 1992-1994 Morrison-Knudsen Brown, Yellow, Orange, Purple 256

'L' rolling stock on order

Class Year Manufacturer Accessible Comments
5000 Series 2010-? Bombardier Transportation Prototypes began arriving in late 2009.Entry into service expected in 2010

Security and safety

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, CTA announced its "If you see something, say something" campaign. CTA has also installed a security camera network, and a system to send real time images from cameras in buses directly to emergency responders.

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

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

See also


  1. Helpful tips and the full guide to transporting bicycles on CTA trains can be found at
  2. According to the 2010 Budget Recommendations, all remaining 1995 buses will be retired if that budget is implemented.
  3. A CTA spokesperson confirmed the order and delay on August 20, 2009.
  4. According to the 2010 Budget Recommendations, this garage will be closed if that budget is implemented.

External links

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