CTA to upgrade to 4G wireless service in subways

The CTA is looking for wireless telecommunications companies to upgrade the existing outmoded wireless network to 4G technology, the latest-generation wireless technology, the transit agency announced last week.

The move would bring faster and more reliable voice, data and web services throughout the CTA's 12 miles of underground subways. That's 24 miles of individual tunnels on the Blue and Red Lines.

Anyone who has tried to use cellular service in the subways over the last year knows that it's woefully inadequate. You can barely send a text message - and often cannot at all. The existing infrastructure dates back to 2005 and is beyond its useful life in that it only supports voice services and has limited data-support capabilities. But I will say it's nice not to hear folks yakking on cellphones in the tunnels.

Under the project, the current wireless network would remain operational while upgrades are made. To keep upgrade costs down, the selected wireless telecommunication provider will need to utilize existing infrastructure materials – such as fiber optics, power sources and hardware equipment – whenever possible.

The CTA currently owns and leases its subway cellular network to six major wireless service providers, which generates approximately $1.8 million in non-farebox revenue for the agency annually, according to a news release.

Project costs will be determined after proposals are received from qualified vendors, and the project will be funded through CTA’s annual capital program. CTA expects to continue to receive revenue from the wireless providers as it does today.


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  • So instead of having their employees fix the clusterf u ck that the Ventra Card has turned out to be, they have them wasting their time so morons can stare at their phones for the 15 minutes they're in the tunnels.
    Just insane!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Apparently, Brian Steele lied about 3 weeks ago about getting the phone queue time down.

    However, there isn't any link. At least with the obsolete system, CTA needed it for its own communications purposes, and got the cell phone companies to pay for the rights, resulting in a source of income.

    Now maybe the incompetent management can't walk and chew gum at the same time, but at least give them the opportunity to make a couple of bucks chewing gum.

  • There's nothing wrong with the current service & to call it past its useful life is absurd.
    It still works & will continue to work & if people aren't happy that they can't get tons of data on their phones, well, I don't care!
    It's a lousy 15 minutes of your life & if that impacts your life, you need to reevaluate everything you do.
    Plus I doubt that the CTA will actually make any money of it due to the fact it will come in late & way over budget as everything else they do does!
    Since the electrical engineers that will be in charge of this have to know computers, temporarily transfer them over to the Ventra disaster & see if they can help fix it.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    You don't care if people get fast data, so nobody should get it. Now, I understand where you're coming from. For a second there, I just thought you were irrational.

  • In reply to chris:

    You're making absurd assumptions & throwing around a ridiculous accusation.
    There are currently far more important things for the CTA to worry about & fix than replacing a 3G wireless system in the tunnels with a 4G one.
    Ventra is a total disaster.
    A runaway train that shouldn't have been possible happened.
    Unending slow zones everywhere, that are driving riders away.
    Streets that don't have bus routes that should & streets that do have bus routes that shouldn't.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I hardly think I'm the one being absurd here, concerning the wireless data speed upgrade.
    As shown below, this is hardly distracting them from doing any of that work, or being incompetent at it.

  • In reply to chris:

    How do you know this isn't distracting them?
    They need to stop all optional projects & concentrate on fixing the Ventra disaster they created solely through incompetence. Reassign as many as possible to fixing Ventra, even if they think it's beneath there regular jobs.
    In other words: General Quarters, All hands to battle stations!
    Whether you like it or not, 4G is optional, not required. No one will die if it's not there as many people don't have it on their phones & many others don't even have phones!

    To put it more simply so even you can understand it:
    The main purpose of the CTA is to employ 12,000+ people who vote correctly & issue contracts to companies that have paid bribes, oops, I mean campaign contributions to the right people! That's why it was created in1947 to bail out the bankrupt rail & streetcar companies which at that point had about 30,000 employees, mostly Irish-American Democrats!
    Of course the reason both companies were bankrupt was those same politicians wouldn't let them raise the fare from 7¢ to 10¢. In short order, the newly formed CTA managed to raise it to 25¢, although tokens bought in bulk were 22.5¢ each, because as a state agency, the CTA didn't have to ask the Illinois Commerce Commission for permission to raise fares the way the rapid transit & Surface Lines companies did!
    The secondary purpose to to move people from point A to point B in a manner that benefits the people who get those bribes, oops, I meant campaign contributions again. Which is why all the rail lines go downtown & there's nothing that goes straight across the city under Western Ave.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Since the onus has been put on Cubic, the only thing CTA needs is a couple of contract administrators to enforce that contract.

    Even if CTA is a patronage haven, I don't see what that has to do with someone soliciting bids for specifications for a wifi system. Like I said before, CTA is not installing it itself, and it appears that CTA has very little to do with Ventra either.

    Hence, I agree with chris that you are foaming without any foundation.

  • In reply to jack:

    Just because the weaselly CTA claims it's all Cubic's fault doesn't mean that.
    The CTA wrote the specs & agreed to the contract.
    Considering the obfuscation & outright lies told by CTA management on this, they certainly can't be trusted to tell the truth now.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    True, but totally irrelevant to your point that CTA should put its own personnel to fix the mess, as opposed to a couple of contract administrators to insist that Cubic do its job, and thus its procurement department isn't available to take proposals on a wifi system.

    I should have predicted that CTA would be sued over the deception related to billing Ventra accounts for rides, and, seeing that article, I definitely predicted that Steele would try to lie out of it, instead of saying "we don't comment on pending litigation," like any other corporate spokesperson would. However, that doesn't mean that instead of hiring a couple of lawyers, CTA should take 700 bus drivers off their shifts to mount a defense to the case.

    By the same token, while CTA inspectors found the welding problems with the Bombardier cars, they didn't pull 100 motormen to fix them.

  • It isn't even known if those are CTA computers; all indications are that the foul ups are First Data's and MetaBank's, Cubic's clearance agents. Some say that the Ventra cards come with MetaBank return addresses in Buffalo, N.Y.

    Also, unless the construction reports posted each month are lying, projects seem to come in on time and on budget. Whether they fix anything is another question. But I doubt that you are in a position to determine whether the current system is obsolete or not.

  • It's not going to matter. No one will use it because no one's Ventra card will work.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Apparently some Ventra cards do work.

    The real question is, with all the talk about government shutdowns, whether there will be a transit shutdown around Jan. 1 because (a) the fare system will be broken to some extent, and (b) John Boehner, sorry, I mean Rahm Emanuel, is going to make sure that the RTA does not set funding marks, and it appears from the Board Meeting Agendas that the service boards are not proceeding to send out their budgets for public hearings.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Lol. Doesn't that assume that we'll actually *get* a Ventra card? I'm still waiting........ :-)

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    ...and just like that, one of my cards shows up yesterday. Hopefully, my 2nd card will show up in the next day or two. Next step, activation...

  • From what I'm reading, it would not be CTA employees performing the upgrade and the CTA gets revenue from this. So why all the complaints and conflation of this with the Ventra issues? This is an entirely different matter. Many of us do need the internet service in the subways for business. I get contacted via email or chat regularly on important matters from people in different timezones. It's not just a frivolous concern for everyone.

  • In reply to Myshkin:
  • Which is still miniscule when compared to the overall costs for the vendors, and the $1.8M annually that the CTA gets from the carriers.

    As to the time spent in the tunnels, it can be a lot longer than 15 minutes when you include wait times for non-peak trains. It must be nice to travel only during rush hour, but not everyone travels at a time when the trains are running a few minutes apart.

  • Do the cta even know what wi-Fi is?

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