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The CTA in the 1950s: Promoting Ridership
 

In the 1950s, the Chicago Transit Authority strove to build ridership in many ways. Publications like these reminded residents and visitors that most of the city was accessible by public transportation, and touted modernization efforts like noise reduction to make the system more attractive.

Even with all of these efforts, ridership didn't rise again until the 1990s. But Chicago's transit system survived the challenges of adapting to the changing city through innovation, and making tough choices about fares and service cuts.

Cover of See Chicago by CTA
Cover of See Chicago by CTA

This 1959 brochure includes information on CTA surface (bus) and rapid transit routes, as well as places of interest around the city and how to reach them by CTA.

Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority and William Wulfert

Save Time…be a ‘Combination Rider’, from a Chicago Transit Map issued by the Chicago Transit Authority in 1959
Save Time…be a ‘Combination Rider’, from a Chicago Transit Map issued by the Chicago Transit Authority in 1959

“Chicago’s unified transit system combines the convenience of city-wide surface routes with the speed of rapid-transit service for transfer riders! You don’t have to live near an “L” or subway station to enjoy traffic-free, weather-free rapid transit service. Start your trip on CTA surface routes in your own neighborhood…transfer at the nearest “L” or subway station…use rapid transit for the longer part of your ride. Be a ‘combination rider!’ Enjoy the advantages of rapid transit service! You’ll find it relaxing…and you’ll cut many minutes from your travel time as you ride above or below street congestion on fast “L” or subway trains!”

From 1959 CTA ad, Save Time…be a ‘Combination Rider’.

CTA Modernization brings noise reduction…aids paving and one-way street program, From a Chicago Transit Map issued by the Chicago Transit Authority in 1959.
CTA Modernization brings noise reduction…aids paving and one-way street program, From a Chicago Transit Map issued by the Chicago Transit Authority in 1959.

“CTA’s modern buses and rapid-transit cars have made and are making a substantial contribution in reducing the noise-level on Chicago streets. The flexibility of motor buses has made easier the establishing of one-way streets, and also has simplified the job of the City, County and State in paving or resurfacing city streets. Toward the cost of street improvements, where buses have replaced streetcars, CTA contributes $10,000 per double-track mile. In the period from 1945 to December 31, 1958, a total of 468.06 miles of streets formerly served by streetcars has been resurfaced or repaved. The City of Chicago’s share of the extensive program covered 319.63 miles; Cook County, 95.89 miles; and the State of Illinois, 52.54 miles.”

From 1959 CTA ad CTA modernization brings noise reduction…

For more on the CTA and urban transportation issues in 1950s Chicago, see the City and Suburb section of the America on the Move exhibition.

See, also:

Moffat, Bruce G. The “L”: The Development of Chicago's Rapid Transit System, 1888-1932. (1995)

Barrett, Paul. The Automobile and Urban Transit: The Formulation of Public Policy in Chicago, 1900-1930. (1983)

Meyer, John R and Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez. Autos, Transit, and Cities. (1965)

Owen, Wilfred. The Metropolitan Transportation Problem. (1966)

Lind, Alan R. Chicago Surface Lines: An illustrated History (1974)

Cherry, David H. When Private Went Public (Master’s Thesis, 1992)

Young, David. Chicago Transit: An Illustrated History. (1998)

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