March 5, 2003

System Will Allow Cell Phone Usage in Subways, Enhance Safety & Convenience

In an effort to further enhance safety and customer convenience, the Chicago Transit Board approved a contract today at its monthly meeting for the installation of a state-of-the-art, wireless telecommunications system in the CTA's rapid transit subway tunnels, underground stations and station passageways.

The completed system will enhance the CTA's existing two-way radio system and improve redundant subway communication options for CTA, Chicago Police Dept. and Chicago Fire Dept./EMS personnel. The system also will allow the CTA to contract use of the Subway Wireless Telecommunications System to Chicago-area wireless service providers ? which would allow customers to use their cell phones, e-mail, wireless internet, paging and text messaging throughout the CTA's 11.4-mile subway system.

?Wireless telephone service is an integral part of life these days," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. ?Customers will be able to stay connected to their businesses and families, and we want to provide them the means to do so. The subway wireless telecommunications system will also expand CTA's communications capabilities."

?This underground connection enables us to have multiple communication options available both for the CTA and for our customers and it prepares us for a variety of situations," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?The more options we have for communicating while in the subway, the better we can deliver a positive, more convenient transit experience to the half-million customers who use our rail system each weekday."

Aldridge Electric Inc. of Libertyville, Illinois was selected through a competitive bidding process for the $11.2 million contract, which calls for the design, analysis, implementation, testing and maintenance of a complete and operational wireless telecommunications system. Funding for the contract is provided by the Regional Transportation Authority.

Work on the project will begin in the spring and last approximately 18 months. During the first phase, radio transmitters, receivers and antennae will be installed and interconnected with existing fiber optic cable to enable voice and data connection services. The CTA does not anticipate service interruptions during installation, as most of the work will take place during off-peak service hours and on weekends.

Previously, CTA solicited bids from wireless providers to invest in and build the infrastructure required to make wireless service possible in the subway. While interested in providing service once the infrastructure was in place, no individual company or group of wireless providers could commit to this capital investment due to the technology sector's declining performance. As a result, the CTA withdrew the Request for Proposal and made the decision to move ahead and build the telecommunications infrastructure on its own.

During the second phase, the CTA will solicit Chicago-area wireless service providers offering connection to the system, which will enable their customers to use their service in the subway and generate revenue for the CTA. The CTA will issue a Request for Proposal later in the year.

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