In Chicago, A CTA survey of smartcard users found that features related to convenience, rail use, and speed were most liked by program participants; 21 percent rated convenience over the magnetic stripe card as their single favorite feature of the system. The most desired features were the multi-use functions and ability to recharge the smartcard via the Internet and credit card.

13-17 January 2002.
Chicago,Illinois,United States

Summary Information

This paper documents the results of a survey of Chicago transit riders participating in the pilot program designed to test the technological feasibility and customer acceptance of a fare payment SmartCard. The SmartCard differs from the magnetic stripe farecard deployed across the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) system in 1997 in that passengers need only pass the card in close proximity to a radio signal reader mounted on turnstiles and bus fareboxes. 3,500 CTA customers purchased the $5 cards and participated in the pilot program.

A mail-in survey of all 3,500 program participants yielded 1,300 responses for a 37 percent response rate. Results of the survey should be taken to represent the views of pilot program participants rather than CTA riders as a whole, given the self-selected nature of the group opting to participate in the pilot program. Geographic analysis of the survey data did indicate that respondents resided in all City of Chicago zip codes and most suburban CTA service area zip codes.

Some results of the survey effort included in the paper indicate:
  • Features related to convenience, rail use and speed were most liked by program participants. 21 percent rated convenience over the magnetic stripe card as their single favorite feature of the system, 15 percent liked being able to use the cards for train travel, 13 percent the time to register rail fare and 8 percent the convenience of the system over using cash to pay fares.
  • The least liked features were the $5 fee, the need to add value to the card after paying the $5 fee, and inaccuracies in calculating bonus fare when adding $10 or more to the card.
  • Features that would simplify adding value to the card were the most popular potential additional features of the program. Most desired were the ability to recharge via the Internet and credit card (desired most by 17 percent of respondents), use to pay fares on Metra as well as CTA (11 percent), auto-recharge via credit card (8 percent), recharge at ATMs (8 percent), and ability to move value from a magnetic fare card to the SmartCard (7 percent).


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Testing Customer Acceptance of SmartCards at the Chicago Transit Authority

Author: Foote, Peter J. and Darwin G. Stuart

Published By: Paper presented at the 81st Annual Transportation Research Board Meeting. Washington, District of Columbia

Source Date: 13-17 January 2002.


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Typical Deployment Locations

Metropolitan Areas


smart cards, electronic fare payment, SmartCard, smart card, SmartCards, electronic fare payment

Benefit ID: 2002-00244