Next-bus arrival screens to enlighten riders at 1% of bus stops

There may be fewer craned necks hanging over sidewalks at 160 CTA bus stops, as they will soon have digital screens displaying next-bus arrival times to consult. The 160 stops represent just over 1% of the CTA’s nearly 12,000 bus stops.

Bus Tracker digital sign.jpg

Digital signs like this one at the University of Illinois will be installed at 160 CTA bus stops. (Chicago Tribune photo)

Well, it’s a start.

And In a nod to Chicago politics, at least one sign will be installed in each of the city’s 50 wards.

The CTA board Wednesday OK’ed a $1 million contract to buy the 160 screens from Luminator Holding. So, that’s $6,250 per screen.

And JC Decaux, the company that currently provides and maintains CTA bus shelters, won a $687,300 contract to install, maintain and remove the signs. That’s almost $4,300 a pop.

I’m in the wrong business.

Funding for the signs comes from a Regional Transit Authority grant and a
Federal Transit Authority, Congestion Mitigation and Quality (CMAQ)
grant. CTA also has the option to purchase up to 2,050 LED signs for up
to five years from the date of the contract, according to a press release.

The CTA also has the option to buy 2,050 more screens, which would cover close to 20% of all bus stops.

Claypool named new CTA president

The CTA board also on Wednesday
unanimously approved Forrest Claypool to serve as the agency’s new

Read the press release Claypool’s credentials.

The deets: He starts work Monday — the same day as Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel — and will earn $198,000 per year.


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Filed under: Bus Tracker


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  • As far as bus stop displays, they aren't new; Rochester NY had them 20 years ago. Of course, they weren't flat screen, and they weren't connected to a tracker system, so that's what's actually new.

    As far as Claypool, I guess I was right yesterday. And $198,000 a year for a political job previously held by functionaries and/or incompetents? If Claypool was the editor in chief of the U of C Law Review, he should have Judge Zagel's job, not this one.

    Finally, was it Sheila or Noelle that put the words in Terry Peterson's mouth? I took PR classes and know he didn't say it. No farewell for Rich, either.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack. I'm not exactly sure what your point is on "new" bus stop displays. Certainly neither the CTA nor I is suggesting this is "new" across the nation. I even posted the U of I photo to show they have them. But they are new to Chicago.

    And are you really suggesting the CEO of a company with more than 10,000 employees and a budget of $1.3 billion should not earn $200,000? Or are you just saying Claypool is not qualified?

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Both. Was Rodriguez getting this kind of money?

    I certainly don't buy the "CEO of a company" balderdash when it comes to political appointees. Any corporate board that would rubberstamp the appointment of a CEO without engaging in an executive search would immediately face a derivative suit. Based on Claypool's educational background, he should know that.

    Then, this being Illinois, there is the question of the additional pension and benefits.

    Of course, your reply would be that CTA isn't paying the $24 million that the CEOs who shake down their private companies get. I guess, though, Rise Health wasn't making Harpo Productions type of money.

    In any event, the totally ineffective CTA Board could free up $135,000 of that money by resigning and not being replaced.

  • In reply to jack:

    Derivative suits on that basis have not been successful, ever. Before a claim can proceed an independent committee of disinterested directors needs to be appointed to investigate. If the committee finds no basis then the claim fails UNLESS the shareholders prove the committee acted in bad faith.

    There has yet to be 1) a case where a committee finds that the shareholder claim has a valid basis and 2) a case where a committee that did not was found to have acted in bad faith.

    So management, through proxy voting they fund from the corporate purse, can pretty much do whatever the hell they want.

  • Also, see yesterday's post on my take on Rich's swan song. I also see that even though we are supposedly coming out of the recession, the financial report indicates that March ridership is down year to year.

  • In reply to jack:

    Looks like ridership is up to me, unless I'm missing something...

    Calendar-adjusted numbers:
    March 2010: 43,777,234
    March 2011: 45,457,797

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    Maybe I should have been more specific that the May 2011 Budget Presentation has March farebox revenue $1.4 million below budget and even free rides down year to year.

    With that clarification, "calendar adjusted" and also the fact that they estimate "platform to platform transfers" indicate that the Ridership Report can be cooked. That goes back to the old Frank Kruesi cry that "we get only 97 cents per ride" subsidized, when it turned out that they were using ridership numbers that demonstrated that they were only collecting 91 cents in fares per unlinked trip.

  • In reply to jack:

    Ridership is up year to year. It's also ahead of budget.

    Average fare is a different statistic.

    Also, there is no calendar adjust because last year had the same amount of weekdays and weekend days as the previous year.

  • In reply to chris:

    So, let's see what we conclude from this.

    Either the Ridership Report is what I suggest, or (since free rides are down), the average fare is down because either people are using more monthly and similar unlimited ride passes (but pass revenue is per budget), or there are a lot more half fare riders (children? disabled under age 65?) at least compared to budget.

    I've made my conclusion, but you would think that the CTA Board would want to know why; especially why there is a variance of 7 cents per unlinked ride from the budget (and CTA never seems able to get above $1.00 for any length of time).

  • In reply to jack:

    Agreed, the 7 cent change is odd. But much of the increases are coming on weekends, so it could be that monthly passes are being used more for other things besides getting to work. Especially with gas prices going up so dramatically recently.

  • In reply to jack:

    Not enough money for service, but money for nonsense like this and the so called holiday train.

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    Well, this does involve federal grants. I don't have any problem with the feds inflating the money supply during a depression, at least so long as interest rates on savings are near zero.

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    CTA seems to be on a toy-buying spree of late. Id prefer that the money were put to better maybe keeping the Red Line cars cleaner and not smelling like what they have become: toilets for the homeless. Or maybe they can put it toward getting the slow zones fixed so that im not late to work every day. My guess is these will look pretty at some press event for Claypool and Rahm to get on TV, then the gang-bangers will cover them with spray paint, or break them, and they will be $6,250 paperweights.

  • In reply to boofoochoochoo:

    Boofoo: It's easy for us riders to think your thought, but as Jack pointed, the CTA can't use that money to clean rail cars. Maybe it could be used for slow zone fixing, but I doubt it. I really have to believe CTA knows it has got a severe slow zone problem, and would try to tap whatever federal dollars to fix them.

    Having said all that, the CTA really should put ads on these signs and at least try to get some revenue from them.

  • In reply to boofoochoochoo:

    Well as I said, these will look nice for a while then fall in to dilapidation. I would like to know who wrote the grants to get the funds for the signs. Maybe we can get them to write a grant called "The CTA deodorizing, disinfecting and filth mitigation fund" so I dont feel the need to douse myself in bleach when I get home. Maybe we could be their first Ad customer. We could place an ad reminding CTA riders that the bus and train is not a toilet.

  • After thinking it over at lunch, one could get a flat screen TV from ABT for about $650, or about 1/10th as much. That's what neighborhood software developers use for their BusTracker interface projects.

    Of course, as you point out, there also is the data system and probably something to enclose the screen from the elements.

    However, Luminator is a government contractor, you are dealing with categorical grants, and of course, what boofoo says the gang bangers will do with them.

    Which gets me to the J.C. Decaux point. My understanding is that the city, not the CTA gets whatever payment Decaux makes to get the rights to erect its shelter, yet CTA has to pay them $4300 per sign (per Kevin's estimate) to install and maintain the signs. I would question that more, especially if DeCaux doesn't have to pay for replacing the broken ones.

    In any event, it appears that the CTA gets the short end of these incestous deals with the city, even if putting up the BusTracker signs is a good idea.

  • Well said, Jack. Anyone who has been to the Davis Purple line station knows that there are plasma screens hanging there displaying CTA trivia in between adverts. I would think they could replace the useless trivia with bus/train info with little trouble. I see no reason why, for $1000000, they could not scale this down for bus stops, put them at every stop and have something a more useful, off the shelf solution.

  • To be fair.... it certainly was easy for me to come up with a "per unit cost" by doing basic math. However, none of us - me included - knows what must happen behind the scenes to get this to work.

    As a journalist, I should have found out before cavalierily (sp?) writing that "per-unit cost" line.

    And I will get the details.

  • Its precisely because there are so many behind-the-scenes machinations that have to take place in order to get anything done at CTA that the place is in a shambles. Heres hoping Claypool straightens that out.

  • In reply to boofoochoochoo:

    Here is to who ever is the new cta prez in two years. I'll believe it when i see it Claypool, but i'm not expecting much.

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