Chicago transit to upgrade subway wireless service

Posted on February 18, 2014

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is seeking bids to upgrade the existing wireless network to 4G technology, the latest-generation wireless technology, for Red Line and Blue Line subway tunnels.

This initiative is one of several efforts by Mayor Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool to modernize infrastructure and make the CTA a world-class transit system.

The upgraded subway wireless network will improve the customer experience by offering better and more robust voice and data services, and improve safety by providing more reliable communication between CTA personnel and emergency responders.

“Investing in Chicago’s world-class transit system includes upgrading transit technology for the benefit and safety for the millions of Chicagoans who commute via CTA buses and trains each week,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This investment is part of my commitment to improving public transportation infrastructure across the city, which will boost ridership and encourage long-term economic growth for the region.”

Last fall the agency issued the first step in a Request for Proposals (RFP) process to select a pool of qualified bidders for the project. The second step of the RFP process has begun with the issue of a detailed specification of the project to the pre-qualified bidders, seeking their proposals for the design and installation of a modern cellular infrastructure system in the CTA’s Red and Blue line tunnels and underground facilities.

“We’re pleased to make progress in our efforts to update technology infrastructure that is no longer adequate to meet today’s wireless needs, including those of our customers, our employees and emergency responders,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “We’re committed to finding the best qualified organization to efficiently design and install the modern infrastructure our subway tunnels need.”

Responses are due by mid-March. The CTA anticipates awarding a contract by summer 2014 and work to begin later in the year.

The existing infrastructure dates back to 2005 and is inadequate to support modern wireless needs, according to the transit agency.

Project costs will be determined after proposals are received from qualified bidders. As the wireless project is underway, the CTA will keep the current wireless network operational, and the CTA will continue to receive revenue from wireless providers as it does today.

CTA has 12 miles of underground subway, or 24 miles of individual tunnels, on the Blue and Red Lines. Additionally, the subway system includes multiple underground passageways connecting rail lines and providing access to nearby buildings. The CTA currently owns and licenses its subway cellular network to six major wireless service providers, which generates approximately $1.8 million of annual revenue.

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