New ridership for old rail: An analysis of changes in the utilization of Chicago's urban rail system, 1990–2008

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - rail, land use - impacts, ridership - demand


Chicago, Urban transportation, Urban rail, Ridership data, Downtown, Gentrification, Immigration


We analyze the evolution of the spatial distribution of ridership in Chicago's Elevated Train over the last two decades, by means of station-level average daily passenger entries and census data to establish links between ridership changes and urban processes. Overall, we observe that 2007–2008 ridership was slightly below 1989–1990 levels, but recovering since the late 1990s. Ridership gains have shown a strong tendency to concentrate within a 10 km radius from the CBD. Outside of this area, losses since 1989–1990 have been steady. The ridership recovery and its spatial distribution appear, therefore, to be related to an acceleration of urban processes, i.e., gentrification, immigration, employment concentration in the CBD.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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