For the right incentive, Chicago commuters change peak-hour behavior

Via Syniverse News Releases

Nov 15, 2017

Nearly 18 percent of transit riders in Chicago pilot bypass peak-hour trains for fare refunds

CHICAGO – Nov. 14, 2017 City Digital, Mastercard, the Chicago Transit Authority and ideas42 announce that, through the use of fare rebates, they were able to shift nearly 18 percent of Red Line traffic before Cubs night games during a pilot project this fall.

The pilot, announced in August, allowed regular commuters who take the Red Line north from downtown to voluntarily sign up for text alerts informing them of potential heavier-than-normal CTA crowds for Wrigley Field night games.

Red Line ridership already is highest between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weeknights, and Cubs games, which start around 7 p.m., add to the rush. The goal of the pilot was to improve rider experience during this time by suggesting less crowded travel periods on the Red Line.

More than 2,000 CTA commuters signed up to receive text alerts, which were sent at 3 p.m. on game days and delivered through a mobile engagement platform provided by Syniverse.

  • Texts sent Aug. 28, 29, 31 and Sept. 14, simply notified the riders about the Cubs game or told them when trains would be less crowded.
  • Texts sent Aug. 30 and Sept. 12 offered a $2.25 rebate to riders’ Ventra cards if they avoided the peak 5 p.m.-6 p.m. hour and instead rode the Red Line from 4 p.m.-5 p.m. or 6 p.m.-7 p.m.
  • Texts sent Sept. 13 offered a $5 charitable donation to riders who avoided the peak (5 p.m.-6 p.m).
  • Texts sent Oct. 19 offered a $5 rebate to riders’ Ventra cards if they did so.

Fare rebates had the most impact with average participant ridership dropping 17.5 percent between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and moving to adjacent hours. Informational text alerts and charitable donations on behalf of the commuter had lower levels of impact but also led to reduction in peak-hour ridership.

“We were thrilled we were able to influence that many people, and we plan to run more and larger experiments like this one in 2018,” said Brenna Berman, executive director of City Digital, which transforms cities into testbeds for new ideas.

“Transit overcrowding can have serious quality of life implications for many Chicagoans,” said Doug Palmer, vice president at ideas42. “We’re excited to see such positive results from using inexpensive, efficient, and evidence-based solutions.”

City Digital and Mastercard will be presenting these results, which can be viewed here, Nov. 14-16 at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.

“As cities look to optimize their existing infrastructure, managing demand by communicating directly with commuters can be a powerful tool for transit providers,” said Sapan Shah, vice president Enterprise Partnerships, Mastercard. “Addressing the challenges of increasing urbanization requires new ideas and new forms of private-public partnerships. We are committed to apply our technology and our data analytics to co-develop and scale urban solutions such as this.”

“CTA is the best way to get home from work as well as to the Cubs games,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “We are always looking for ways to increase convenience for our customers, and this test program allowed us to study ways we can improve customer experience.”

About City Digital (A UI LABS Collaboration)

City Digital transforms cities into testbeds for new ideas. With partners, we remake obsolete services and infrastructure, from sewers to skyscrapers. We currently are easing subway congestion during large events; mapping underground pipes to prevent construction mistakes; and diverting rainwater from overloaded sewer systems. We then prepare these solutions for other cities, thus increasing the world’s odds of solving big, urban problems.

About Mastercard

Mastercard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.

About ideas42

We have a clear mission to use our unique experience as a non-profit at the forefront of behavioral science to change millions of lives. We create innovative solutions to tough problems in economic mobility, health, education, consumer finance, energy efficiency, safety and justice, and international development. Our approach is based on a deep understanding of human behavior and why people make the decisions they do. Working closely with our partners from government, foundations, NGOs and companies, we have more than 80 active projects in the United States and around the world.

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