Chicago’s Metra Board of Directors approved a $26.7 million contract to replace its antiquated GPS tracking and passenger announcement system with a state-of-the-art system that will also include a test of automatic passenger counting technology.
The contract was awarded to Clever Devices Ltd.
“This new system promises to be a major upgrade to the passenger experience,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “It will enable us to do a better job of tracking trains and conveying timely, accurate information to our customers, and it will address some of the common sources of complaints about our communication efforts.”
The new system will carry out a variety of tasks that are now handled by two separate systems, one that was installed in 2006 and the other in 2010.
- The system will be used to track train movement, report a train’s adherence to the schedule, make onboard and platform announcements, send digital information to onboard and platform signs, and communicate operational changes and alerts to customers.
- It will entail a new communication network with a complete replacement of all hardware, including computers, GPS units, modems, and other components that are no longer supported or past their useful life or capacity.
Because the current system’s GPS units are failing, roughly 20% to 30% of Metra’s current trains do not track. If trains aren’t tracking, they do not trip automated platform announcements and do not appear in Metra’s tracker or GTFS feed, preventing Metra workers from providing real-time updates. Glitches in the system also sometimes result in incomplete, unintelligible, or repetitive announcements. All of those issues are frustrating to customers.
The contract also calls for a test on 11 cars of an automatic passenger counting system that uses cameras in the entrances. If the test is successful, Metra would have to decide whether it wanted to expand the system to replace or supplement its current manual counting of riders at stations.