The CTA Project

Innovative Research for Competitive Transit

2001-2010. The project began in 2001 as collaboration between the CTA, UIC, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Sponsored by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the project provided a unique opportunity for students and faculty to work collaboratively with the CTA, generating research projects defined by common interest and their potential to advance the state of practice in transit management, planning and operations. The research agenda focused on the development of new knowledge to support efficient, equitable and appropriate capital investment, policy and operating decisions. Research teams worked to identify areas of common interest through consultations with CTA. Specific research topics were chosen based on student interest, the commitment of a faculty adviser and the identification of appropriate and interested CTA personnel.CTA Logo

The UIC-CTA-MIT collaboration focused on six areas of research from a capital investment standpoint: 1) Capital investment Decisions for Transit Operations; 2) Transit Facility Design and Construction Processes; 3) Decision Support for Service Development; 4) Future Transit Funding Strategies and Opportunities; 5) Transportation Planning; and 6) Infrastructure Renewal and Replacement. The research team in consultation with CTA staff and CTP staff identified specific topics. A typical topic would integrate student drive and interest, CTA needs, faculty advising and expertise and guidance and assistance from appropriate CTA staff.

A List of Topics Studied:

  • Technology Adoption and its Impact on CTA Ridership:

    The research focused on individuals’ technology use in public transportation case, using data from Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The CTA offers two types of technologies to its customers in the provision of services and information: Smart card technology and the Internet. The results allowed CTA in program targeting of the smart card as well as in understanding the factors impacting the use of its website by its customer base

  • Capital Finance – Getting the CTA to a State of Good Repair and Beyond:

    The goal was to identify the appropriate debt instrument(s) and revenue stream(s) for securing the $6.8 billion in additional capital necessary to bring the CTA into a state of good repair (SGR), based on the standards outlined in the President’s 2009-20013 Proposed Capital Improvement Plan.

  • Stakeholder Involvement Practices of the CTA and Their Effectiveness:

    The goal of this research project was to determine the key elements of a meaningful and effective stakeholder involvement effort in public transit planning. This study relied on a broad definition of the term “stakeholder” – to include internal staff involved in a project such as planners, engineers, project managers, consultants, and government community relations staff; and affected external stakeholders, which include community organizations, elected officials, business owners, and the public. The Brown Line rehabilitation project was used as a case study for this analysis.

  • Understanding the Impacts of Delays on Rail Ridership:

    This research aimed to understand the effects of delays on ridership. Data collected from the Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) System and Rail Slow Zone Maps of the Blue Line will be used to evaluate this relationship. The analysis explored the correlation between delays and rail ridership, and tested the hypothesis that as customers experience delays they will decrease their use of the rail system. Also studied were the impact of slow zones in diverting ridership on to buses. The research will inform the agency about proactively managing delays and consumers’ perceptions about the reliability of the service. Understanding the effects of delays in ridership would help CTA avoid potential loss of customers.

  • Strategies to Improve Bus Service Operations:

    This research sought to understand the concept of various operations strategies designed to improve bus operations. These include short-turn operations, dead-heading and the mid-route recovery. The goal was to understand the effectiveness of the use of these strategies by studying specific routes that employ them. The research included an evaluation of specific routes with specific strategies and their effect on passenger loads and bunching.

  • Understanding the Effect of U-Pass in Building a Loyal Transit User Base for CTA:

    We have completed a large-scale survey to understand U-Pass recipients’ behavior and its impact on their ridership. The survey has been linked at the individual level with actual rider transactions providing a unique and rich data set. We proposed to continue analyzing this data to completely understand the impacts of this fare medium on future ridership and in building brand loyalty to CTA. We also explored the idea of comparing the results obtained from UIC with that of another school in the U-Pass program in order to fully understand the spatial and land use impacts on U-Pass usage and ridership

  • Behavioral and Perceptual Analysis of Rider/Non-rider responses and Customer Satisfaction Survey – Analysis of Survey Results:

    The CTA completed the administration of surveys aimed at getting feedback from riders and non-riders of its system as well as from its customer base. The UIC research team studied these two data sets with the aim of informing the CTA about trends in both categories of respondents – both rider and non-rider, as well as model the behavioral factors that impact their decision to use the system. The results helped the CTA to more effectively target marketing efforts.

  • Environmental Cost Efficiency/Impact of Idling Reduction Strategies for CTA Buses

    Initial analysis conducted by a UTC student indicated that excessive idling of transit buses while in service or in storage resulted in significant and possibly unnecessary expenses for the agency. We continued this investigation by examining idling in activiites in all eight CTA bus garages and the impact of idling reduction measures and pilot projects established by the CTA in light of the recommendations made by UIC.