CTA planning a chatbot, other real-time updates for riders

NBC Universal, Inc.

More than 900,000 people ride the CTA each weekday, and riders can think of plenty of ways to improve Chicago's transit agency.

“I definitely think the buses can be a lot safer, a lot more organized, a lot cleaner,” daily rider Dominique Mathews said.

At a regular meeting Tuesday morning, the transit authority said it is making changes to win back both the ridership and employees it lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are hiring more workers following an unprecedented decline in workforce throughout the transit industry,” Brian Steele, the CTA’s Vice President of Communications said.

So far in 2023, CTA has hired more than 600 bus operators as part of its “Meet the Moment: initiative.

The agency plans to hire another 100 bus operators in hopes of reducing some of the bus bunching that riders like Hans Stroger are seeing.

“It seems like there aren’t as many drivers,” he said. “Sometimes it seems like the buses are clumped up together; two buses will come and there is not another bus for 40 minutes.”

Crime has been another major concern for CTA riders. “You have to be careful, watch your back,” one woman told NBC Chicago.

While still clearly a concern of riders, the CTA said Tuesday that crime is down 9% since the beginning of the year.

“We have private security guards, we have K-9 units, we have one of the largest security camera systems in the United States that actually does serve as a deterrent,” Steele said.

But while CTA President Dorval Carter said the transit agency has made great progress in the past year, he acknowledged that it still has a long way to go.

Carter aims to close the gap with a new chatbot feature that will provide real-time service updates to riders.

“We will soon introduce our new chatbot which will provide automated assistance information to our customers, allowing more customer real time feedback about service conditions they may be experiencing on our system,” Carter said.

Rider Leonard Smith, who has been satisfied with the changes he has seen on the CTA, called the idea a “cool upgrade.”

However, the CTA says the Chatbot project is still in its earliest stages, with no word on when it may roll out to users.

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