New digital information screens bring peace and quiet to CTA stations


The new screen shows estimated train arrival times most of the time. If you watch it long enough, you will see weather information. 

A new feature that debuted at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Oakton-Skokie station in April and Morgan station in May gives riders better Train Tracker information without a noisy distraction. The brand new digital information screens provide useful countdown times to the next train “at nearly all times” without the chaff offered by existing screens in the CTA system.

These screens are more informative than the loud and large Titan screens seen at more stations; they also rarely display the number of minutes until the next train. When Grid Chicago asked the CTA about its intentions in using the new screens, spokesperson Brian Steele replied, “They’re consciously designed to focus on real-time customer information, and don’t show ads, agency promotions or PSAs”.

Continue reading New digital information screens bring peace and quiet to CTA stations

Exposing people to “strange” new pavement markings


Mark, a former Chicagoan, now Bostonian, posted this photo of a flyer he received in his “motor vehicle excise tax” bill (think of it like the annual city sticker, but much more costly). It describes and displays the new kinds of pavement markings that are showing up around Boston. It says, “New pavement markings for cyclists are cropping up around the city. Here’s what they mean for drivers.”

The two-sided flyer uses graphics from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide to show bike lanes, shared lanes, bike boxes, and cycle tracks. The opposite side thanks Bostonians for making Boston America’s safest city for walking and cycling. I didn’t know it was – I’d like to know more about this and which data source or metric they’re using.

A pamphlet in property tax bills and city sticker applications could be the start of a wider campaign to bring awareness to different street designs (which were put in place to make one or more transportation modes safer than before). The best bet for sustainable awareness raising is to start moving towards mobility education in schools and at the DMV.

Continue reading Exposing people to “strange” new pavement markings

Insight into how CTA built Train Tracker by Text


CTA passengers wait for trains in the Loop. Photo by Jim Watkins. 

Last week I excitedly announced the launch of the Chicago Transit Authority’s new system to get predicted arrival times for trains by text messaging (also known as SMS). I thought that the messaging syntax and the station codes were amusing but clever.

I emailed Tony Coppoletta, the CTA’s manager of external electronic communications manager, to ask about how the codes came to be, as well as upcoming Train Tracker features and the capabilities of SMS communications. Coppoletta directs how they reach their customers and partners with information about CTA services through digital means.  Continue reading Insight into how CTA built Train Tracker by Text

CTA launches train tracker with text messaging


Grab your phone right now and send the message “CTATRAIN THOR” to 41411. Or send “ctatrain logs” to the same number. Wait a moment.

Clever, right? Continue reading CTA launches train tracker with text messaging

Latent demand for CTA to be on Twitter, and CTA’s other tools


The Chicago Transit Authority tweeted for the first time yesterday morning at 10:59 AM. They said, “This is an official announcement from CTA: Hello”. They had 1 follower at the time of the tweet (it was me). 25 minutes later they had 49 new followers.

7 hours and 31 minutes later (I checked at random times), they had 1,338 followers. That’s fast.

36 hours later, they have 1,928 followers.

They also launched a page on Facebook and an updates service delivered via email or SMS (text messaging). We’re glad CTA is now on social media (it took awhile). But these are just a few tools out of many that the CTA has for its customers to get information. Let me list them all for you:

Read my story about the state of Chicago transit trackers. Also, you can follow Grid Chicago on Facebook and Twitter, or via email updates.

The state of transit trackers in Chicago


A CTA passenger waits for a train in the snow at Belmont Brown Line station. Photo by Mike Priorie. 

Knowing when your bus or train is about to come can help you make better decisions. “Do I have enough time to get coffee from the shop across the street?” “Can I pack my own lunch today?” “If I miss this bus because I can’t find my good shoes, how long will it be to the next one”? I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves these questions*. The Chicago Transit Authority’s transit tracking services can help with the answers. Continue reading The state of transit trackers in Chicago