The UI LABS impact starts in Chicago and extends across the country, with projects underway from coast to coast.
City Tech: Using Incentives to Shift Commuter Behavior
The CTA Red Line, a north-south train serving downtown Chicago as well as some of the most densely populated residential neighborhoods along Lake Michigan, often experiences overcrowding when the Chicago Cubs play a weeknight game at Wrigley Field. Red Line trains running from downtown to the Howard stop are consistently operating at peak capacity during the evening rush period and become even busier on Cubs game nights. Wrigley Field is located on the Addison Red Line stop, about four miles north of downtown. The influx of fans staying at hotels between downtown and Lakeview increases demand during already busy weeknight commute rush hours.
In August of 2017, City Tech partnered with Mastercard, the CTA, Syniverse, and ideas42 to design low-cost, efficient, and consumer-friendly text message reminders that were sent before Cubs home games to encourage and incentivize riders to take the Cubs game into consideration when making evening travel plans, and then change their travel time. More than 2,000 CTA commuters signed up to receive text alerts, which were sent at 3 p.m. on game days and delivered through a mobile engagement platform provided by Syniverse.
The team tested four types of alerts over the course of the pilot: informational, instructional, fare rebate, and donation. Fare rebates had the most impact with average participant ridership dropping 17.5 percent between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and moving to adjacent hours. Informational text alerts and charitable donations on behalf of the commuter also led to reductions in peak-hour ridership for pilot participants, but not at statistically significant levels.
The results of this pilot study show the potential for low-cost solutions to improve residents' commute home. Instead of large infrastructure investments to reduce overcrowding that only occurs during peak hours, the results of this pilot study suggest that low-cost fare rebates may help alleviate some of the burden mass transit riders face daily.