Headed Home? CTA Can Let You Know When the Ballgame May Affect Your Commute

Aug. 21, 2017
The CTA has announced it will conduct a limited test program in which customers who take the Red Line from downtown stations can sign up to receive text alerts about Cubs night games and the potential for heavier than normal train crowds.

In its latest effort to leverage technology to make riding the Chicago Transit Authority more convenient and comfortable, the CTA has announced it will conduct a limited test program in which customers who take the Red Line from downtown stations can sign up to receive text alerts about Cubs night games and the potential for heavier than normal train crowds during the evening rush on the Red Line.

The CTA Night Game Alerts test program will also in some cases offer incentives to some customers to change their travel pattern for that evening by traveling before 5 p.m. or after 6 p.m.

The program, as well as choosing a different time to travel, is completely voluntary.

CTA is the first major transit agency in the U.S. to test a service that texts select customers ahead of specific events. By leveraging the technical capabilities of the Ventra fare payment system, the agency will measure the effectiveness and popularity of providing customized travel information to customers, which could be expanded for other events that prompt heavier-than-usual CTA ridership.

“We talk with our customers regularly about ways we can improve service, and one of the suggestions we’ve received is getting notice about sporting events and other special events that affect the commute home,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “We look forward to hearing from our customers about how they liked the service and if it is effective in reducing extra train congestion by encouraging customers to alter their travel patterns on days of special events.”

How it will work:

  • CTA will post signs at Red Line stations between Chicago and Harrison promoting the CTA Night Game Alerts signup. CTA will email Ventra customers who have previously registered their Ventra cards with Ventra; who typically board the Red Line downtown on weekday evenings; and who have opted to receive emails from CTA and Ventra.
  • Customers who sign up for Night Game Alerts by texting CTAJOIN to 89883 will get text alerts on Aug. 28-30 and Sept. 12-15, when night games are scheduled at Wrigley Field. CTA could extend the test program for any night games scheduled past September.
  • Only customers who voluntarily opt in to receive the free alerts will receive texts from CTA and they can opt out at any time.
  • The alerts will recommend traveling on the Red Line before 5 p.m. or after 6 p.m., when Cubs fans are likely to board northbound trains. In some cases, those customers will be offered incentives for traveling at less crowded times, which could include reimbursement for the ride taken or a charitable donation.

CTA is testing this service with Mastercard and City Digital, a UI LABS collaboration, in partnership with Ideas42. Mastercard will sponsor certain incentives that could include fare reimbursement or charitable donations to Stand Up To Cancer based on the number of customers who participate in the program on select days and times.

The night game texting service is the latest way in which CTA is taking advantage of new technology to make customers’ commutes more convenient and reliable. Additional technology enhancements in recent years have included expanding digital CTA Train and Bus Tracker displays, installing 4G wireless service in the CTA Red and Blue Line subway tunnels and the launch of the popular Ventra transit app.

Following the outcome of this test program, CTA will look at expanding it to additional sporting and special events.

To get alerts, customers will need to have their Ventra cards already registered. If a customer signs up for the program and does not have a registered card, they will be prompted to register in a few easy, quick steps. Since CTA launched Ventra four years ago, customers have had the ability to easily register their cards by visiting ventrachicago.com. Registration provides many account benefits, including protecting customer's account balance in the event their card is lost, receiving account notifications and more.

The CTA Night Game Alerts test is separate from the long-running CTA Updates service, in which customers can sign up for texts and/or emails about changes to services that are both planned and unplanned, including customizing those alerts to specific routes or rail lines.