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CTA wireless alerts etiquette

More than 300 people have signed up for CTA wireless alerts, 200 people in the last 18 hours along after the Tribune featured a story about them, and then other media, including Fox News and Chicago Public Radio, picked up on it. (The alerts are a collaboration between myself and my brother, Daniel X. O'Neil, an Internet consultant who came up with the idea.)

As might have been predicted, some of those newly enrolled folks wanted to test the system to see if it really works.

It does. Trust me. Now stop, please. The test alerts cost money to phone users just as real alerts do.

As I mentioned in other posts and comments, we have to be our own watchdogs. These alerts will only be as useful as we make them. Test alerts are not useful. They are annoying. Nuff said.

There have been some helpful suggestions for readers here in various comment threads. Among them:

From Ed: "Improvements could be made through standardization. Obviously, info about which line(s) is/are being affected is necessary. And the direction. (Like NB for northbound SB for southbound or IB/OB for inbound and outbound). Also, maybe the station name would be useful. So a quick message could be: "Delay SB Red @ Fullerton" Any additional info, like Why would be great if it's known."

C suggests: "State the color of the line and then a @ sign with the location of a station closing/slowdown, or a "bw" closing for "between" two stations." Thus "Red SB closed bw Add/Fulltn" means "The Red line is shut down southbound between Addison and Fullerton.

Look here for other thoughts on this subject.

Another commenter said he's like to see alerts limited to just the lines you ride.  In theory it's not a bad idea, but in practice, many of the lines are intertwined, such as all the elevated trains going around the Loop plus the Red Line.

I will continue to post ideas like this as they develop. This is new technology. Let's be patient, thoughtful and polite in using it.


How is this going to work say you're in the Red of Blue Line subway and you're held up..there is no service down there so how would you find out before hand what is holding you bacl?

@South Side Bert - unfortunately, that's the CTA's call. I thought they were going to be implementing a cell system underground at some point. Who knows if and when that will happen, though. No networked system outside of the CTA's control will work underground but there's nothing you or I can do about it.

Hope you get a text message before you get on the train.

There was a twenty-five minute/half-hour Red Line delay yesterday evening, around 6:45 - 7:15. I stood on the Fullerton platform during this time and didn't hear any P.A. announcements. Five or six Brown Lines and a Purple Line went through. The first two Red Lines went express. The car I was on had very low speaker volume, but I was barely able to hear the words "express" and "Granville," so I exited. No one else seemed to notice.

May I request a ban on anyone who responds, "OK" to these alerts?

I recieved two last night. There's no need whatsoever to respond. Use the info or not, but don't acknowledge. As has been stated before, some people are charged for each message.

May I suggest a dual subscription for the lines:

and CTA_Loop?

You must be subscribed to the ALL to select a sub line- but you can opt out of receiving messages to all by a post only membership?

Anyone up for mirroring the UPOC site and posting these texts on the web?

I sent the alert yesterday about the northbound Red Line delay. Unfortunately I was too late and sent it when I got to Belmont, just when the Red Line cleared up. I wanted to wait to get there to see if the Brown/Purple were clogged too. They weren't, so I sent a message from Belmont advising that riders take those lines northbound, if possible.

A few minutes later, a rush of Red trains came through. I hadn't been able to see that I was in the first train in a caravan of 4-5 trains.

I would have sent a text about the delay earlier, but I was stuck in the subway at Grand. The best thing would be if someone at Fullerton or Belmont (above ground) or further north could tell if it was piling up and there was a significant delay.

I also wasnt sure if it was a significant enough situation to warrant a text, but with 20-25 minute delays, I think it was worth it.

WTF? Spam on bahamas cruise? And I have to pay for that? Count me out unless it stops.

^Yep. Once the local media got wind of it, this service was doomed. Well, I shouldn't say "doomed" but with no real way to regulate spam, the service is going to get annoying pretty quick.

Yes, I also would love to see lines by color. I have not ridden anything but a small fragment of the Blue line for two years-- all other information would be extraneous to me. Signing up for a CTA_blue alert would be fantastic.

disgruntled texter wrote: "Spam on bahamas cruise? And I have to pay for that? Count me out unless it stops."

The cta_alerts group did not get that spam about bahama cruises. I have a feeling you may have inadvertently joined another "lifestyle" group by default when you joined upoc.com.

Here's what to do:

1. Login to upoc.com under your username.

2. Click on "communities" in the top middle blue nav bar.

3. Be sure cta-alerts is the only community group you are signed up for. To quit other groups, click the check mark and click the "Quit checked" button.

Did that. nothing there except CTA alerts. And elsewhere, "Announcements from UPOC partners" is OFF. The system is compromised, I got two cruise emails and a "website winner" spam, and I have NEVER signed up for anything else using this phone.

Whats the progress on the plan to put a rail line around the outer limits of the other lines. It would circle the entire system, making a map of it look something like a wagon wheel. It would make unnecessary the long trips into the city just to connect to the line going near your destination.

Hi. A few responses:

* South Side Bert: If there is no cell service, ya can't send a message. Kind-of a bummer and definitely a limitation of the system, but it is hat it is
* TEKKY re: "OK" bans: in 356 signups we've had 2 "OK"s. Seems pretty good. I'm all for banning serial spammers/ bad message people, and hopefully we'll develop BOOT criteria together, but a ban afer one mistake seems excessive
* Lyz: there's currently no way to segregate the lines into separate groups w/o creating separate groups. That wouldn't be a great thing because ew'd lose the powerful networking effect of having a lot of people in one group. But I'm open
* disgruntled: the bahamas cruise spam absolutely did not come from the cta_alerts group. You can see all 25 messages to date here: http://www.upoc.com/group.jsp?group=ctaalerts. No bahama

I agree, maybe a little excessive, but the message (pardon the pun) should be loud and clear.


Former cta_alerts user WCityMike has the dubious distinction of being the first user booted from the system. It was an easy choice:

* Sent two not-useful messages about a minor delay on one train
* Called people in the group "stupid idiots"


The delay actually turned out to be symptomatic of something more extensive, as it turned out from further follow-up messages from others, so I question whether calling them not useful is correct.

However, the "stupid idiots" comment was indeed out of line. Were to I have an opportunity to do so, I would like to formally apologize for same, both to anyone from the list who reads this comment and to DXO.

May I possibly be considered for reinstatement? I am not normally discourteous by nature; I can explain further, but would prefer the explanation to be private.

Whether or not reinstatement is granted, I apologize for the discourteous message anyway.

I'd also respectfully note, sir, that you yourself said last night that "a ban afer one mistake seems excessive." I'd ask for forgiveness for that one mistake, if at all possible.

The notifications are in principle a good idea. However, I have to say that I signed up Friday and dropped it Sunday. CTA-HQ was the only handle that provided anything worthwhile. Maybe the CTA should adapt the system so that they have the ability to text people who want the texts, but nobody else has the ability to text. Then we would not all received a bunch of "off" texts, and other useless material.

Great idea, it just seems like relying on 350 people to operate the system effectively is asking too much. The power of the networking effect referred to above seems to be a bunch of people texting me with the word "off."

I just want to say that this morning, the texts kept me much better informed than my conductor. I can only assume that bobinchicago was on the "blessed" train that is the best train--that conductor always informs his train about what is going on. I wanted to ask, but didn't want to ask everyone.

Thanks for the great info!

Would it be ok to include delays on PACE busses? I think there would be a lot of CTA riders who connect with lines such as the 626, the 290 and others, who would like to know the status of their busses.
As for a shorthand, how about P in front of the number? "Example P213 SB delayed @ Dundee."

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