CTA Public Address System Upgrades to Improve Customer Communications

May 14, 2008

In an ongoing effort to improve the ways in which information is provided to customers, the Chicago Transit Board today approved a contract for upgrades to the CTA's Public Address (PA) system.

The CTA currently has PA equipment from three different manufacturers and three different time periods. The most recent equipment is about three years old but more than half of the equipment is 15 - 25 years old. The remote equipment at each station is managed through a head end unit at the CTA's control center that enables managers to make announcements and send messages. The original manufacturer of the unit is no longer in business and it is becoming increasingly difficult to service and maintain the unit. Today's contract for $2.4 million to Innovative Electronic Designs, Inc. (IED) allows for replacing the head end unit with more modern technology.

Upon installation of the IED PA head end system, the 58 rail stations that already have IED equipment installed will be fully and immediately compatible with the advanced features of the new PA head end system. The Control Center will be able to send audio messages and text messages. The new head end system will also have the capability to create automated messages and will have diagnostic capabilities to alert the CTA if parts are not working.

In addition, the IED PA head end system will be able to control the remaining 86 stations, and as funding permits upgrades will be made to make them fully compatible in the future.

"After analyzing our operations and the tools we use to communicate with our customers, upgrading the head end equipment of our PA system is the first of many steps we will be taking to invest in the latest technologies that are necessary to further improve customer communications," said CTA President Ron Huberman. "As funding becomes available, customers at all CTA rails stations will eventually benefit from the advanced features this system has to offer."

CTA currently communicates real-time and recurring information to customers at all 144 rail stations via the PA system. The PA system originated as an audio-only information broadcast system, but was expanded in 1996 to include visual text information for the hearing impaired as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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