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How Chicago’s transit agencies plan to improve rider communication and travel information

May 16, 2023

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This post is one in a series exploring the Agenda for Action and Advocacy in Transit is the Answer, the RTA’s new regional transit strategic plan. Together with our partners, working toward the items on this list will move us closer to the plan’s vision of a public transportation system that is safe, reliable, and accessible that connects people to opportunity, advances equity, and combats climate change.

Providing accurate, real-time travel information is a critical component of delivering quality public transportation. Pandemic-induced service disruptions and staffing challenges have made service less reliable at times, making it even more important for riders to have access to clear, accurate updates about when and where their bus or train will arrive.

When riders have access to reliable information and predictable trip times, it is easier for them to choose transit over driving. The RTA, CTA, Metra, and Pace continue to work together to upgrade technology and improve coordination so every rider has access to the information they need.

Over the last year, the RTA and Service Boards have already made progress:

  • Pace has expanded their partnership with the Transit app, a mobile app providing real-time public transit data and trip planning information, by authorizing the integration of Pace’s On Demand service into the platform.
  • Metra has launched MetraTracker.com, where riders can view where trains are across the system and estimate when they will depart from their station. Building off this, Metra will install upgraded weather-proof LCD monitors at every station that will link to the new tracking system to provide riders at stations with schedule updates and other travel information.
  • CTA debuted a new bus tracking system with modernized features and enhanced navigation. Additional planned technology upgrades along with ongoing efforts to match schedules with available operators demonstrate CTA’s commitment to improve communication with riders.
  • The RTA’s redesigned website offers a centralized page to access bus and train trackers and schedules from all Service Boards, a trip planner, downloadable maps, and helpful tips for riders.

Transit is the Answer relied on input on this topic from stakeholder working groups, who crafted specific strategies to make immediate improvements. These include the development of improved station and platform signage and audio messaging for where to board, reviewing existing displays to ensure they can be read by as many riders as possible, and testing manual and automated audio announcement systems for sound quality.

2023 Priority: Review of Rider Communication and Information

Acting on these recommendations, in 2023, the agencies will work together to commission an independent review of the accessibility and usability of rider communication, signage, and information-sharing across and between agencies. The RTA will lead this review and continue to advance better rider information through interagency signage and coordination with the Service Boards on in-vehicle and at-station improvements.

With more resources, the agencies could update their central operating software and hardware on vehicles more frequently, which would make location reporting more robust and accurate. Additional digital signage installations paired with improvements to the Ventra app would improve riders’ access to critical information. More funding would also allow all agencies to augment their technical staffing to help advance these projects more quickly.

The RTA is convening the Transit is the Answer Coalition to win sustainable funding for transit and build a better system for everyone who relies on it. If you or your organization would like to be part of the Transit is the Answer Coalition to support and advocate for transit's future in northeast Illinois, please sign up to stay informed and participate in Coalition meetings.

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Tagged in: CTA | Metra | Pace | RTA | Transit is the Answer

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