Record gasoline prices in Chicago last year ultimately led to a huge boost in ridership in 2011, the CTA announced today. While high gasoline prices hurt motorists in Chicago, hitting a peak average of a whopping $4.522 last year, some fought back by riding the CTA's trains or buses.

According to the CTA, ridership in 2011 totaled over half a BILLION rides, coming in at 531.9 million. The number rose 3% over 2010, and while it doesn't sound like a massive increase, it represents nearly 15 million more rides, which is an increase of 41,100 rides every day. Not too shabby!

The total number of rides represented the most rides the CTA provided in two decades. According to the CTA, "The CTA’s 3 percent ridership gain outpaced the average among transit systems across the United States by about 30 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) study of national ridership numbers for 2011, released Monday. The CTA’s rail traffic gains exceeded the national average by more than 50 percent."

High gasoline prices aren't fun, but they push us (yours truly included) to being more efficient- riding trains and buses. I didn't blink an eye to the measly $86 per month that the CTA charges for unlimited rides every month. Heck, I'd probably pay just that every week if I used my car to replace the transportation I get from CTA.

Now there's only a few major improvements I'd suggest for the CTA- EXPAND. Please! Turn your CTA into and RTA, more subways, buses, stations, stops, etc. Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, please expand your system!

To the rest of you who aren't as blessed with mass transit- you still have options. It might not be fun riding a bus everyday, but there's still savings- the $50-$100 a month in car insurance, the $50-$150 a week in gasoline, the $25-$50 a month in upkeep, it all adds up! Save your car for when you really need it- for me- that's a trip out to the suburbs to get something from the home improvement store, but otherwise, it's the CTA.