CTA Expands Student Smart Card Program with Chicago Public Schools

August 13, 2008

Program to Increase Ridership and Reduce Administrative Costs


Today the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced the expansion of the Student Card program following a successful pilot program which took place this spring.

The cards were tested by approximately 1,900 students attending Carver Military Academy and Prosser Career Academy. Participating students received personalized cards that combined their student identification cards, reduced-fare eligibility cards and reduced-fare magnetic strip cards into one. Each student had previously been required to carry all three cards to receive a reduced fare.

"This program is an example of CTA's continued commitment to provide an efficient travel environment for customers and improve overall service," said CTA President Ron Huberman. "The pilot encouraged more students to ride public transportation to get to and from school. We were able to reduce operational and administrative costs by working directly with the District's student information management instead of with each individual school."

In the past, CTA would work with individual schools when shipping out the magnetic strip cards. Under the new program, CPS will coordinate the printing and distributing the cards to participating schools as part of their distribution of student IDs.

With increasing pressure on each organization's operating budgets, innovative approaches to reduce costs are critical. The CTA anticipates saving approximately $500,000 each year once the program is active in all CPS high schools. These savings will result from decreased administrative and operational costs due to a reduction in maintenance of revenue equipment defects from magnetic cards, collaborative inter-agency card production and distribution, and improved bus and rail operational efficiencies.

"Not only did more students begin using the CTA's reduced-fare program because of its convenience, but the use of these cards resulted in increased administrative and operational efficiencies at CTA and CPS," said CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan. "Based on the success of this pilot, we are looking forward to expanding the program into more schools this fall and completing the roll-out to all of our high school students over the next 18 months."

The benefits of the student smart cards drew large increases in the number of students at each school who participated in the reduced-fare program. Prior to the pilot, just one out of four students at Prosser and Carver combined rode using the CTA student reduced fare program. During the pilot, three out of four students rode using their reduced fare Student Cards.

In addition to the increased participation in the CTA reduced fare program, both schools noted a significant decrease in lost student ID cards, as compared with pre-pilot data.

CPS and CTA officials developed a joint task force to create a timeline and roll-out plan to expand the program to other Chicago high schools. Carver Military Academy and Prosser Career Academy will continue the program in the fall. The CPS also expects to offer the program at 16 additional high schools in October, with 30 more schools scheduled to come on board in January. The task force has coordinated the training of CPS officials on the program, as well as informing students and families how the program works.

The cards function like CTA's Chicago Card in that they are stored value cards, where the value is stored on the card. Students pay a reduced fare of $0.85 cents and may transfer for $0.15.

Students use the smart cards during the same hours as currently used with student riding permits: Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) from 5:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. during months when school is in session.


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