Thanks to Tech Upgrade, CTA Riders Will Be Even More Closely Glued to Smartphones

Erin Nekervis via flickr
Erin Nekervis via flickr

Apparently the CTA thinks its customers don’t already spend enough time staring at their smartphones. Today city officials announced that free public Wi-Fi service is now available in all 18 downtown Red and Blue Line subway stations.

It has been easy to access the Internet on the CTA since 2015, when it became the largest public transportation system in North America to provide transit riders with full 4G wireless coverage. (That wasn’t such an impressive achievement, since the Chicago rapid transit network has only 22 miles of subway and tunnels, a fraction of that in New York’s MTA system.) But the new Wi-Fi service will be useful for straphangers who want to quickly download media, large files or access the Internet without using data from their monthly wireless service contracts.

Emanuel, CTA chief Dorval Carter and 2nd Ward alderman Brian Hopkins announce the new service at a presser today. Photo: CTA
Emanuel, CTA chief Dorval Carter and 2nd Ward alderman Brian Hopkins announce the new service at a presser today. Photo: CTA

“Chicago has taken the next technological step toward keeping commuters fully connected in our fast-paced, digital world,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “This service will benefit all passengers who rely on our rail system to get to work, school and to destinations across our great city every day.”

Station platforms now equipped with the new Wi-Fi service include:

  • Blue Line: Division, Chicago, Grand, Clark/Lake, Washington, Monroe, Jackson, LaSalle and Clinton
  • Red Line: North/Clybourn, Clark/Division, Chicago/State, Grand, Lake, Monroe, Jackson, Harrison and Roosevelt

The Blue Line’s Belmont and Logan Square stations will also be equipped with Wi-Fi by late May. The cost of the new Wi-Fi service in all Red and Blue line subway stations is about $1 million bankrolled from the CTA’s operating budget.

So thanks to this latest technological upgrade, you no longer have any excuse for interacting with your fellow human beings while riding public transportation.

  • Cloutster

    Just what you want — distracted riders talking on their phones — blissfully unaware of the phone thief sizing them up for a robbery

  • matoubrown

    To be fair–this can be immensely helpful for international visitors to our city. I’ve often had spotty cell service while traveling abroad and wifi for checking directions etc can be a lifesaver.

  • Talking to strangers had never been a thing for most people. Indeed it’s potentially a form of harassment for women. Also in the old days people were glued to their newspapers.

  • Guy Ross

    This comment is performance art.

  • Cloutster

    CTA says the same thing about phone users and safety — even while building the technology that encourages phone distraction

  • Gene Parmesan

    I always get great cell reception in every station and along every route (Verizon)… what is the value of this service? How does this generate revenue for the CTA? Should charity or social services or whatever you want to call providing free wifi to the poor be paid for out of the CTA operating budget? Shouldn’t that be funded by some sort of federal welfare grant? Considering the nature of wifi, the neighbors of CTA stations now have free internet, but what else does this do?

    It just seems like a waste of money to me. Yes, there are a lot of public-facing businesses like restaurants and retail stores that provide free wifi, and in general I believe in upgrading the quality of the public transportation experience to conform to contemporary standards held by motivated and self-respecting people, and not like garbage dumps for dope fiends as is the current state of most CTA stations. But there are about a many items higher on the priority list than wifi, considering that everyone already has reliable cell service at CTA stations. For example, they should have spent that million dollars designing a system to allow the trains to automatically come to a very accurate stop at each station, which would enable the CTA train doors to align with platform doors, which would allow the platforms to be enclosed and climate controlled. Then we could have heating and AC while we wait for the train, which would be revolutionary. There isn’t a new fast food shop or store in the city, no matter how discount or barebones, that doesn’t have heating and air conditioning, and yet we currently have to wait out in the 0*F cold or 85*F 85% humidity heat like cattle waiting for slaughter whenever we want to take a train. FIX THAT!

  • rohmen

    When I’ve traveled internationally, and not had a cell signal, getting free WiFi in airports and transit centers has often been a lifesaver in figuring out how to get around the city. That’s what I imagine this is largely aimed at—providing a tourism amenity that’s pretty common around the world.

  • Gene Parmesan

    That’s a good idea but there seem to be so many higher priority issues.


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