Impact of Service Cuts, Telecommuting and COVID Risk Perception on Ridership and Congestion

Working closely with Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Argonne’s SMART Mobility Workflow was exercised to quantify the impact of multiple COVID scenarios on transit ridership and system level energy, GHG emissions, equity and the economy.

Key findings include

  • Even with no service cuts, expected growth in telecommuting and lingering risk concerns around transit will impact ridership and other road users, causing:

    • Increased congestion with average of 1.5 to 8.5 more minutes on road for drivers for each trip
    • Approx. 20% to 40% decline in ridership
    • Up to $3.7B economic impact at the regional level
  • Service cuts will directly impact CTA service and jobs, but will cause a ripple effect in the economy

    • Reduction in shopping, dining, and entertainment between $112M and $327M and thousands of jobs loss in industries that are already severely impacted by COVID
    • Combined economic impact between $1B and $3.4B
  • If risk perception remains and employees continue to telecommute at least once each week

    • Economic impact from service cuts grows substantially – between $4.7B and $7.2B.
    • Increase in fuel use and GHG would reverse substantial recent gains in vehicle efficiency
    • Road speeds reduced up to 33% in the City of Chicago

As a result, continued COVID risk perception on transit, potentially due to virus variants, vaccine duration, and other diseases has the potential to disrupt boardings more than deep service cuts or telecommuting.