On June 6, CTA will launch a pilot program on 10 of its buses and at eight rail stations to help speed boarding for customers. An express fare payment lane will be designated on the left-side of the bus entrance for Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus customers, and the right side will be reserved for customers paying with a magnetic strip transit card or cash. The rail stations will dedicate one turnstile for those paying with either Chicago Card option. The pilot is part of CTA's continued commitment to customer service and is being conducted to determine if providing two lanes for boarding bus customers and a dedicated turnstile at stations will help to speed boarding and, therefore, speed service.
The faster and easier the boarding process, the more the transit experience is improved for existing customers. Faster boarding also helps to attract new customers. CTA currently provides approximately 1.5 million rides on an average weekday and has shown strong growth in ridership for the first half of 2005. The pilot will also provide an additional incentive for customers to switch to Chicago Card fare options.
The bus routes and rail stations getting Go Lanes for the pilot were chosen because they are a geographically balanced group of routes and stations that carry a high volume of customers. At rail stations particularly, CTA chose stations that serve a high volume of customers who transfer between bus and rail.
Ten low-floor, wide-door buses have had the electronic touchpad for Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus relocated to the horizontal hand rail on the left of the bus entrance. The farebox for transit cards and cash remains on the right entrance by the bus operator. The selected bus routes are the #151 Sheridan, #144 Marine/Michigan Express, #145 Wilson/Michigan Express, #156 LaSalle, #126 Jackson, #6 Jackson Park Express, #29 State and #3 King Drive. Go Lane buses can be identified by bright yellow and blue decals on the outside of the bus and bus operators will make announcements as customers board.
The eight selected rail stations are Howard, Chicago, 79th and 95th/Dan Ryan on the Red Line; Jefferson Park on the Blue Line; and Clark/Lake, Washington/ State, and Washington/Dearborn in the Loop. The dedicated lanes are identified by signs over the turnstile and on the floor in front of it.
"Providing two lanes will help speed boarding for customers, particularly those at congested rush hour locations," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. "Customers who want to take advantage of faster boarding should use a Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus."
To further encourage customers to switch to the more efficient electronic fare media option, the $5 fee to purchase the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus has been waived through July 31. The fee waiver allows customers to make the switch to either farecard without the initial cost.
"We have compared boarding times in the past for bus customers using Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus versus using a transit card or cash," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?At least two customers can board a bus using an electronic farecard for every customer paying with cash or a transit card."
CTA will monitor Go Lane boarding times during morning and evening rush periods to measure time saved during boarding, as well as the ratio of customers using electronic fare media compared to cash or transit cards. Customer reaction and ease of use will also be evaluated as part of the pilot to determine whether use of Go Lanes should expand.
The cost of conducting the pilot is minimal for CTA because the work to move the electronic touchpads was done internally and uses existing equipment.
Both the Chicago Card ? introduced in 2002 ? and the Chicago Card Plus ? introduced in 2004 ? enable customers to simply touch the card against a target on bus fareboxes and rail turnstiles, and go. The Chicago Card Plus allows customers to manage their accounts online and add value to their cards automatically each time the balance falls to $10. The Chicago Card Plus offers two fare choices ? a 30-Day pass or a Pay-Per-Use card.
With the Chicago Card, value is added at fare card vending machines and there is no online account management. Registering the Chicago Card protects the balance if the card is lost, stolen or damaged. By notifying the CTA, a new card will be issued with the remaining value of the missing card intact.
CTA personnel will be at select pilot locations to provide details for acquiring Chicago Cards and signing up customers. Customers also can order Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus online, through the mail, by calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. or at CTA's main office at 567 West Lake Street. Order forms can also be found at CTA's main office and online at www.chicago-card.com. Chicago Cards are also available at Chicago Currency Exchanges, Jewel-Osco and Dominick's Finer Food stores.
Last year the three-month fee waiver on these cards generated strong customer interest. More than 60,000 Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus cards were ordered during that time.
Currently, 99,239 Chicago Card Plus farecards are in circulation with 21,270 of those issued in 2005. To date, 72,029 Chicago Cards are in circulation, with 8,831 of those issued in 2005. A grand total of 171,268 Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus farecards are currently in circulation.
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