CTA Blue Line connects Wi-Fi


Grace Senior

CTA Blue Line connects Wi-Fi

By Kaci Watt

Staying connected during your commute has been simplified.

The mayor’s office announced in a Jan. 13 press release that free Wi-Fi is being offered to the CTA’s Blue Line Clark/Lake stop.

CTA Spokesperson Jon Kaplan stated in a Jan. 23 email to The Chronicle that the stop was chosen because it is the second most-heavily traveled station on the system. Clark/Lake is a transfer point for six of the eight rail lines in Chicago’s ‘L’ system, he added.

“Many of those traveling through this station are either on their way to [or] from work, school, the airport or [are] visitors from out of town,” Kaplan said.

The service is ideal for those who want to quickly download media, large files or access the internet without using data from their monthly wireless service packages, the press release stated.

American Sign Language English interpretation major Lauren Pincus said she views the addition of Wi-Fi as a positive. But she thinks there are other advancements needed on the ‘L’ system.

“I’m pretty impressed with the CTA compared to New York subways,” Pincus said. “[But] I know on the Red Line, some of [the stops] don’t have the time [screens] because they’re older stations. Start updating [stations] to make sure everyone knows when the train is coming because [some commuters] don’t have phones or the app.”

According to Pincus, she does not use her phone or computer while on the ‘L’ due to safety concerns but witnesses many who do. During her commute to campus, she encounters many elementary to high school-aged kids whom she feels the Wi-Fi could benefit. Kaplan added that customers should be aware of their surroundings while using smartphones on the CTA.

While there was no observed need for Wi-Fi in the stations, the addition was set in place to enhance customer experience, Kaplan said. He added that the $600,000 funding comes from CTA’s operating budget.

“By adding Wi-Fi service, we are helping keep commuters connected in the fast-paced, digital world,” he said.

By early February, customers can expect to see Wi-Fi added to the Blue Line’s Washington, Monroe and Jackson stops as well, according to Kaplan. As of now, there are plans to expand Wi-Fi services to all Blue and Red Line stops in the near future.

Senior interdisciplinary documentary major Maria Meade also uses the Blue Line for her commute to campus and expressed her skepticism of the addition due to its distractive nature.

“I guess [it] is helpful,” Meade said. “[But] the point of public transit is to get where you’re going fast, so it’s interesting that they would want something like that.”

While Chicago is not the first major U.S. city to introduce Wi-Fi on public transportation, it is the only city to have introduced a 4G network throughout its system, Kaplan said. Customers who have 4G service through their provider have access to it throughout the ‘L’ system.

Meade said adding Wi-Fi would create an even more technologically-distracted public.

“It bothers me when people are on their phones on the train,” Meade said. “Even when you’re waiting, you don’t really talk to people, so it’s straying away from human interaction even more.”