emerging technology

How IoT Can Revolutionize CTA Transit

May 4th, 2017

There are few public transportation systems more famous than the CTA and its ‘L’ trains. Ranking in the top ten transit networks in the country, the CTA carries 1.6 million riders a week, making it the second-largest public transportation system in the United States.

Yet its fame and popularity do not exempt the CTA from the same pain points that befall most every publication transportation system; rather, the CTA’s gargantuan size exacerbates these issues, and presents new challenges as well.

Some of these pain points include inconsistent arrivals & departures, an overwhelming volume of passengers during peak ride times, and a severe susceptibility to unpredictable problems such as traffic accidents or inclement weather.

These drawbacks have frustrated passengers since the invention of public transport, yet emerging technologies could finally remedy these decades-old headaches—if the CTA chose to adopt them, they could revolutionize how we traverse Chicagoland.

How IoT Can Revolutionize CTA Transit

Top Ten Public Transportation Systems In US (Source)

Enter: the Internet of Things, or IoT.

In a general sense, IoT is the infrastructure of connectivity—a network between users and their physical environment. With IoT, the same network used by your phone, computer, or tablet, is extended to everyday objects: the fridgethe classroom, and now, public transportation.

Below are just few of the benefits an IoT-integrated public transportation system offers. These not only directly aid the millions of passengers that rely on Chicago’s public transit, but also help the CTA optimize routes, reduce costs, and better serve the city of Chicago.

Wi-Fi Connectivity

We’ve all been subject to poor or non-existent cell phone service when driving a car through a tunnel, or riding the ‘L’ underground. Smart buses or train cars eliminate this possibility, providing instant convenience to passengers who often read or work while riding.

But this doesn’t just serve as a perk for passengers on the L or the bus; by equipping their vehicles with WiFi, and monitoring when cellphones were connected to it, the CTA could collect data on passengers and their journeys and use it to improve the riding experience.

Real-Time Tracking

Another common pain point of public transportation systems is the lack of real-time data on a buses or trains. The ‘L’ does an excellent job of displaying the arrival times for their trains at most stations, but when delays occur, it often times can’t give much more info than “delayed”.

How IoT Can Revolutionize CTA Transit


But with GPS sensors installed in buses and train cars, passengers could track the location of their transport vehicle in real-time. It could even generate more accurate arrival and departure times, so passengers could adjust their travel plans accordingly.

Of the million-plus riders that the CTA reports use their transit system daily, a sizable portion of them rely on the service every day, and many of that group travel the same exact route as well. Public transportation is a staple of our personal daily routines—shouldn’t it offer a personal riding experience to match it?

With the IoT, passengers could receive alerts when their stop is approaching right on their mobile devices. If a line is experiencing delays or if an issue arises at a specific station, the CTA could notify the riders who use that station or ride that line instantly. It’d be a simple task for any Chicago app development company.

Up-To-The-Minute Alerts & Rerouting

There’s nothing worse than waiting for a train for what seems like forever, only to find out the train is no longer running, or is undergoing repairs. With a more connected public transportation vehicle, the CTA could notify riders immediately when trains were down with up-to-the-minute mobile texts or alerts.

It could even offer alternate routes for a rider to take if their usual transit methods weren’t operating, and could compare and contrast each route based on navigability, traffic congestion, and duration of trip.


These are just some of the ways a more connected CTA transit system could benefit the millions of Chicagoans that rely on it every day. We’ve only scratched the surface of the IoT’s role in public transportation. From environmentally-conscious applications to the aggregation of big data, IoT’s potential uses are limitless.

But what we have discussed, above all else, is an opportunity. An opportunity for the CTA to adapt some of these technologies, refine them, and mold them to meet the needs of the citizens of Chicago.

Sean McGowan


Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest and greatest in digital design, Sean can be found baking, watching movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.


software development

eCommerce Is Ushering Agriculture Into A New Era

software development

The US Government Is In Need of a Digital Experience Overhaul