December 30, 2003

New Technology Providing Additional Assistance for CTA Customers

The Chicago Transit Authority has completed the installation and activation of a new high-tech Automated Voice Annunciation System (AVAS) allowing many CTA bus customers to enjoy clearer messages informing them of their upcoming stops. Today at the Chicago Avenue Bus Garage on the city's West Side, CTA officials showcased the $15.6 million system, which provides automated bus stop announcements on CTA buses and electronic signs that display the upcoming stop. When buses are at stops, the system announces the route and destination of the bus.

?This new technology makes CTA buses more convenient for our customers to use, especially those customers who are visually or hearing impaired and those who are unfamiliar with the route," said CTA President Frank Kruesi.

The announcement system determines the bus? position by using a combination of Global Positioning Satellites (GPS), odometer inputs that provide distance traveled, and a gyroscope that observes changes in direction.

Customers now hear clear messages telling them the name of the approaching stop. Those who are hearing impaired can read the name of the approaching stop displayed on an electronic sign located at the front inside of the bus. For those waiting to board a bus at a bus stop, AVAS equipped buses announce the bus route and destination and display the destination on the outside of the bus.

Throughout 2003, CTA worked to install the AVAS system on 1,370 of its 2,022 buses. The system was activated one garage at a time, once all buses at the garage that were scheduled to receive the system had been equipped. Activation began in August 2003 with the Chicago Avenue Garage. On December 16, CTA completed the process by activating its last AVAS-equipped buses.

CTA has installed the AVAS system on all but the oldest CTA buses, which are nearing retirement and soon will be replaced with new buses. All buses purchased by CTA in the future will come equipped with the system.

CTA's installation of this system is the largest undertaking of its kind in the United States. The manufacturer, Clever Devices of Syosset, New York, has previously installed its AVAS system on a number of transit systems in cities across the country including Dallas, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Boston and Baltimore.

The AVAS project also included the installation of Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs) on 266 AVAS-equipped buses. The passenger counters also are based on global positioning satellite technology and provide an accurate count of where customers board and alight buses and the number of customers on board buses at any given point on a route.

?The Automatic Passenger Counters will assist the CTA in determining how best to meet changes in ridership demand," added Kruesi.

?Activating the automated voice annunciation system is just one more way CTA is adding to the comfort and convenience for our existing customers, and helping to attract new customers to the system," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole L. Brown.

Currently, 89 percent of CTA bus routes are accessible and 46 percent of CTA rail stations are accessible. Every CTA train has at least two accessible cars.

In addition, the CTA currently is in the process of rehabilitating the Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the Blue Line. That project includes rebuilding eight stations, all of which will be completely accessible to people with disabilities.

Next year, construction will begin on the Brown Line, which will provide new or rehabbed rail stations to 18 stops ? all of which will be accessible to customers with disabilities.

The CTA has gap fillers for wheelchairs at all 144 'L' stations to facilitate the movement of customers in mobility devices on and off trains.

Additional enhancements throughout the system include the installation of ramps and elevators at rail stations, tactile edging on rail platforms, Braille and raised-letter signs, and ramps or lifts on buses, which make bus travel easier for people with mobility devices.

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