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Will a livestream of Blue Line crowding finally shame CTA into providing better service?

6:49 PM CST on February 28, 2023

A screenshot of the livestream on the morning of Wednesday, March 1.

Update 3/2, 1:30 PM: Streetsblog shared the tweet below expressing concern about the livestream facilitating stalking and other crimes with the CTA. We also shared another reader's tweet: "I really wanna know about the hardware and software stack behind this. How much are we paying for this? How long is video archived? Where is data being stored? How many full-time employees are assigned to this?" A CTA spokesperson provided this statement:

The costs of implementing this new livestreaming tool are negligible as we used existing materials and in-house resources to install.

As noted in the bottom left corner of the livestream, "Real-time platform cameras provide live views only and do not record any footage."

As you’ve seen, the livestream feed was set up with a low resolution, making it challenging to discern identifying features of riders. The video quality is enough to provide a sense of platform crowding—which is its intended purpose.

Also, CTA is a public space, and many public spaces across the country have cameras that offer livestreaming."

Update 3/1/23, 9:30 AM: Commentators have pointed out that the livestream raises privacy and personal safety issues. It will be interesting to see how long the feature stays up before the CTA is overwhelmed with complaints. At the very least, it might make sense for the agency to blur out people's faces in the video if possible, Google Street View-style.

The CTA said it's also assigning more staff to keep a close eye on peak-hour service, allowing them to respond more quickly to problems. The agency added that there are more frequent platform announcements to inform passengers about the status of trains, including the location of the next run, and when extra trains have been added. The release also noted that the CTA ridership dashboards rolled out during the depths of the pandemic are still available on the website, providing average weekday or weekend ridership trends for all 'L' stations and bus lines for each hour of service to help riders avoid crowded vehicles.

A great way to advertise that there isn't frequent enough train service.

— Vote Brandon Johnson! (@NWChiFiets) February 28, 2023

I'm optimistic that the Blue Line livestreams will create a win-win situation for riders. Either crowding will improve, possibly in part because customers will use the livestream info to avoid the busiest times. Or else the publicly available images of Tokyo-like packed train platforms, minus the excellent service, will be so embarrassing for the CTA that the agency will have no choice but to add a lot more morning Blue Line runs.

View the livestream on weekdays from 7-10 a.m. here. 

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