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As City Fully Reopens, CTA Has Been Busy Getting Ready For Riders To Come Back; 'It's Important To Put Our Best Foot Forward,'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With the city reopening today, more and more people will be riding public transportation.

The CTA took advantage of the pandemic to spruce up train stations across the city. CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas discovers what you can expect as you return to the rails.

From the Brown Line to the Blue line from green paint to white, the CTA is trying to paint the right picture for returning riders.

"CTA's been out there quite a bit, so I know they're doing work. They have six vans on the street right now," Matt Nardella said.

"We're replacing some of the worn deck boards," a CTA worker said

The work is part of a new campaign called Refresh and Renew. The goal is to have their stations in tip-top shape as the city reopens.

"They change the lighting, they fix broken railings and concrete," said CTA spokesman Brian Steele.

The CTA knows some riders are still hesitant to get on public transit.

"It's been a while since they've been a part of riding with other customers. So that's why we know it's important to put our best foot forward," Steele said.

Especially important as the CTA tries to bounce back from a massive drop in ridership.

CTA used to average 1.5 million daily riders. In March of 2020, it dropped to just 250,000. Now it's up to around 600,000 per day.

"The trains are definitely still spread out a little bit, but the buses have been extremely crowded," said CTA customer Elena Disabito.

So what can you expect when you return to public transit? For now, you'll still have to wear a mask, whether you're vaccinated or not.

Social distancing is encouraged, but not always possible.

"That's the nature of public transit," Steele said. "Our air filtration on our vehicles are really efficient."

As for that old Ventra card you loaded up pre-pandemic, Steele said the funds are still good.

If you have a pass that expired with a balance, he said you can call the CTA to sort it out.

Even with those efforts, Steele said it could be more than a year before trains and buses return to pre-pandemic ridership.

"We don't know exactly what the future holds," he said.

But they're ready to roll if you are.

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