Transportation

Digital Advertising Takes a Useful Turn for Chicago Transit Riders

A public-private collaboration is taking digital advertising screens and adding in pertinent travel information to improve the travel experience for the public.

by / March 19, 2018
A Chicago Transit Authority train approaches a station. CTA digital adverting screens now run a “Passenger Information Bar” at the bottom, which contains real-time train status data. Shutterstock

Riders in Chicago now only need to look up at the digital advertising screens on Chicago Transit Authority platforms to find the latest travel information.

CTA, through its partnership with Intersection — the company that manages the digital station advertising — now runs a “Passenger Information Bar” at the bottom of the screen, with arrival and departure information. The information bar — which CTA officials are calling the “flip” — will include real-time data, complete with alerts like service disruptions.

“We are pleased that we’re able to leverage our expansive collection of digital displays – which have improved commuting significantly — to increase the amount of helpful information we’re providing to CTA riders,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr., in a statement.

The system providing this data is known as IxNConnect, and was developed by the New York City-based company that specializes in smart cities technologies and works with a number of transit agencies. Much of that work revolves around managing the display and digital advertising in transit stations and equipment.

“Over the last couple of years, Intersection has really focused not just on bringing in revenue for the authorities, but also bringing them new technology, and sort of smarter cities type of technology, to help them really revolutionize the way that they interact with their customers,” said Scott Goldsmith, president of Cities and Transit at Intersection.

One of the key issues Goldsmith hears from transit partners has to do with transit’s inability to connect with riders in real time. This modification to the standard digital advertisement does just that.

“They [transit agencies] have the information,” said Goldsmith, referring to arrival and departure times, as well as other issues that can affect travel such as construction on the transit system.

“This is really valuable information that their customers really want to know about,” Goldsmith added.

The company plans to bring a similar system to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, as well as New Jersey Transit, which operates rail and bus service in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia, a region spread across 5,325 square miles. 

The system in Chicago is particular to the rail network, said Irene Ferradaz, a spokeswoman for CTA.

“All the digital screens show train info. CTA has a separate group of signs at hundreds of bus stops that show bus arrival times,” she explained. “They are part of a different — non-Intersection — screen network.”

The real-time platform is now available on the 195 screens located on the outside of station entrances. More screens will be rolled out this year, bringing the transit status information to about 400 screens in the CTA network, said Goldsmith.

“The hardware was designed for transit authority use, both indoor and outdoor. And then, our transit team built the IxNConnect platform, built the software to match up to the displays,” said Goldsmith. “So we worked very closely with CTA to build that software.”

One of the key features of the software behind the IxNConnect system allows transit authorities to have one place to manage the communications across the digital network of displays.

“What IxNConnect does is brings all those displays under one system,” said Goldsmith.

“What’s really great about this is, CTA has really led the way, and worked collaboratively with us here,” he added. “We can provide software, and we can provide digital displays. But unless we work very closely with the authority … it’s very hard to understand how we can best help customers." 

Intersection delivers the advertising, and that revenue paid for the system upgrades.

“The entire endeavor is done at zero costs to the CTA,” said Goldsmith.

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.