CTA Outlines Comprehensive Customer Communications Plan

October 14, 2008
New ‘Planned Service Alerts’ E-mail Program; Eight Routes to be Added to Bus Tracker Web Site on October 20

“Information when you need it; where you need it,” is the strategy behind the comprehensive customer communications plan introduced today by Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman. The CTA plans to leverage existing communication tools as well as develop new ones to provide customers with access to clear, timely easy-to-use service information whether they are planning their trips or in transit.

“Customer communications is a critical piece of our efforts to improve the overall customer experience on the CTA,” said Huberman. “Throughout the year, the CTA has announced several new initiatives focused on improving the information available to customers, such as Google Transit and the expansion of Bus Tracker. Now we are integrating new measures with existing tools to further assist customers in planning their trips.”

Beginning today, customers can sign up to electronically receive Planned Service Alerts, which clearly outline scheduled changes in service for the upcoming weekend (Friday evening through Sunday) or the following work week (Monday through Friday). The alerts will outline the various construction projects that will impact rail service or reroute buses for the specified period.

For example, a neighborhood festival requiring street closures can impact bus service. The Planned Service Alerts will provide information on events that impact service and clearly outline which routes are affected, date(s) and time(s) in which buses will be rerouted, and the temporary routing details of buses during the time of the event.

To subscribe to this free service, customers need to register via the CTA web site (www.transitchicago.com) by providing their preferred e-mail address in which to receive the alerts.

CTA has identified a number of initiatives and communication tools that the agency will begin implementing and will continue to develop over the course of the next 12 months. Staff will be assigned to a tactical communications unit responsible for providing emergency and scheduled service impact information to customers via announcements, e-mail alerts and the CTA web site, which will soon be overhauled and relaunched. Once the digital signage is installed at rail stations in 2009, these devices also will be used to communicate with riders. In addition to providing information during an emergency, the tactical communications unit will make sure that all informational signage is current across the CTA system.

Plans to further improve communications during emergencies also were outlined. By early 2009, the CTA plans to launch the Emergency Alerts program. Similar to the Planned Service Alerts, customers will be able to sign up to receive e-mailed alerts regarding major delays or disruptions to service along their selected routes.

“We are fully aware of the importance of ensuring that our customers have access to clear and consistent travel information so they can plan their trips accordingly, but even more important is offering emergency service information to our customers during an event that is impacting service,” said Huberman.

The CTA has also produced an updated rail system evacuation video available for viewing on the agency’s web site at www.transitchicago.com. The updated video provides customers with an overview of what to expect in case of an emergency, and identifies safety features already in place on both trains and in subway tunnels including: improved lighting; enhanced signage; emergency intercoms on the trains and emergency telephones in the tunnels. The video will be available on the CTA’s web site.

A brochure will soon be available at rail stations that outline ways in which customers may need to evacuate a train during an emergency; what to look for during an emergency to ensure a safe evacuation; as well as descriptions of subway tunnel safety features. Brochures will also be available to download from the CTA web site.

In addition, on Monday, October 20, eight additional CTA bus routes will be activated on CTA’s Bus Tracker web site.

  • #6 Jackson Park Express
  • #11 Lincoln/Sedgwick
  • #69 Cumberland/East River
  • #79 79th
  • #87 87th
  • #145 Wilson/Michigan Express
  • #151 Sheridan
  • #157 Streeterville

With these additions, customers will be able to track estimated arrival times for buses on 49 percent (75 out of 153) of CTA bus routes.

The dedicated CTA Bus Tracker web site (www.ctabustracker.com) provides customers with a route map where icons indicate the location and direction of buses currently in service on up to five routes, an alarm feature that alerts customers when a bus is approaching their selected bus stop, and the estimated arrival times at bus stops.

Portions of the CTA’s customer communication plan are already in the process of being implemented, including:

  • Permanent System Signage: the CTA is replacing outdated station entrance and boarding area signage to ensure consistent information across the rail system.
  • Temporary System Signage: temporary signs and mobile whiteboards are being used at rail stations to provide updated service information to customers during significant scheduled service changes, such as the weekend line cuts on the Blue Line, Loop Signal project, the Brown Line Capacity Expansion project or when a bus shuttle is implemented.

Other enhancements and features that will be introduced over the next year include:

  • New CTA Website: By late 2008, the CTA will unveil its newly revamped web site. In addition to a new look and feel, the web site will be easier to navigate, as well as feature the most needed information and tools front-and-center on the homepage, such as Bus Tracker, maps, schedules, alerts and fare information and Google Trip Planner.
  • Service Tracker: With the re-launch of the CTA web site, the home page also will feature a new bus and rail service status tool. The new online device will indicate the current status of each rail line, as well as any bus routes significantly impacted by planned or emergency service changes.
  • Emergency Information Hotline: Customers on-the-go will be able to call a new CTA information number featuring recorded messages with service information during emergencies that create major delays to CTA services.
  • Digital Signage: The CTA will soon launch a pilot test of digital advertising screens installed at a CTA rail station. Digital displays at a rail station will provide customers with up-to-date travel information and estimated arrival time of the next train.

“In addition to using technology to provide information, we also are addressing the human aspect of the agency’s communication strategy,” Huberman added. “We are emphasizing to our employees the importance of providing clear, timely and easy-to-use information to customers whenever our service is impacted.”

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