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Drop In CTA Ridership Won't Force Cuts In Chicago Transit Service

CHICAGO (CBS) --  It's no surprise that many are avoiding the CTA.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said buses and trains will continue to run. But as CBS 2's Jeremy Ross reports, the virus' impact on public transit may be worse than anticipated.

It's not hard to find the buses and trains moving Chicago, but it's what people are viewing inside them that's shocking to some.

Elise Murray said she's staying away from public transit because of COVID-19 concerns.

"I see buses going by. I see them empty or empty trains," Murray said. "If I see a bus go by, I see like two people on it so that's pretty crazy. Trying to avoid it. Been walking as much as possible."

And she's not alone.

The CTA said Wednesday compared to a year ago rail ridership is down 75%. Bus ridership down 59%. An overall transit decline of 68%, blamed on virus fears that are shared by bus drivers and operators.

Keith Hill is president of the union representing nearly 7,000 transit workers. He said about 11 have quarantined since the virus news.

"They're afraid. Concerned. We all got families at home so it is a vast majority of my members that are very worried," Hill said. "They all coming up negative. That's the good news."

The union added while you're not seeing more riders on buses and trains, they don't want the drop in demand to mean a drop in service routes, because for so many, public transit is a lifeline.

"We get people to the hospitals, to the grocery store, to take care of their vital needs of what they need to do with their day-to-day life," Hill said.

He said before the sights of empty or near empty train platforms, about 1.5 million people per day used Chicago's buses and rails. CTA hopes cleaning efforts will restore trust in transit. That includes daily cleanings, disinfecting surfaces in addition to regular deep cleaning.

"It's the best way to move around the city," Hill added.

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