A regional transit breakthrough for Chicago commuters

Tue, 2014-12-23 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

The days of fumbling around for change or juggling several different maps will soon come to an end for Chicago commuters. The three transit agencies that serve the city and the area surrounding it are coming together in a new app that lets riders seamlessly pay and plan their trips.

Council Lead Partner Cubic Transportation Systems is behind the integrated transit app, which begins rolling out next year. When it’s completed, travelers in the greater Chicago area will have just a single mobile app to use during the entire trip, even if the trip spans rail and different bus lines.

A regional transit breakthrough
This is the first truly regional transit app in the U.S. The app brings together the Chicago Transit Authority, suburban bus operator Pace, and Metra, the commuter rail system.

The app will feature a single map that shows the transit agencies as one cohesive system. Further, it will provide status updates and alerts that cover any point of a commuter’s trip.

Commuters can pay for their trip with their smartphone as well, and transit agencies don’t have to change their fare collection systems much to allow for this. When a customer pays, the app can display the receipt as an electronic ticket or barcode. It also supports Near Field Communications, allowing riders to register their payment simply by swiping their phone near a receiver.

Cubic will begin rolling out the app next year, and gradually add features through the following year.

Modernizing Ireland’s rail system
Cubic is being called on to modernize both the demand and supply sides of transportation. In Ireland, it is involved in a mammoth overhaul of the long outdated Irish Rail ticketing system.

The overhaul is part of a comprehensive effort to give customers a better experience, and the rail line modern tools for managing it. Cubic says the idea is to put the customer at the heart of the rail company’s operation.

The new system will give customers self-service options. Through a single interface, they can reserve and pay for seats and change existing reservations, if they need to.

The rail company also gets new tools to help it manage supply and demand. It will gain demand-based pricing, which allows it to adjust the prices of seats based on the demand. For customers, this enhancement will allow them to save money by traveling in off-peak times.

Improving service with real-time information
True integration goes well beyond trip planning and payment. Cubic Transportation Systems is also helping transit agencies improve customer service by giving riders more access to real-time information.

The company announced two new deals with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority in Florida and State University of New York Purchase College, as well as an extension of its work with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

The three deals give riders up-to-the-minute information about when their bus is expected to arrive. That information can be beamed to LCD displays at bus stops or apps.

Cubic’s technology includes sensors on the buses that monitor where they are, as well as the platform that generates expected arrival times and shares that with system operators and riders.

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