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Behind the scenes at the CTA control center

September 23, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

The CTA on Monday pulled back the curtain to "the theater," its control center operations, for about a dozen attendees as part of Social Media Week.

The tour, run by CTA project specialist Allison Harrell and CTA manager of external electronic communications Tony Coppoletta, showcased how the CTA keeps trains and buses running daily and during emergency situations and how it communicates any delays and reroutes with riders.

The control center, at 120 N. Racine Ave., is called the theater because CTA employees work round-the-clock to monitor 40-plus big screens that showcase train locations, bus terminals, weather patterns and local news. On Monday, the CTA said it was closely monitoring the Logan Square Blue Line station because the new show "Chicago PD" was filming there.

Control center workers have the power to cut the power at a rail station when someone is on the tracks. They also work with bus operators to every day test bus silent alarms, which are used to tell the control center if a crime is being committed aboard the bus.

Coppoletta then showed attendees the evolution of the CTA website and Twitter feed and how the agency sends texts to alert riders if there are delays.

This is not the only CTA-related event that is part of Social Media Week, a series of technology-related discussions. The week is hosted in part by the Tribune Media Group, which, like RedEye, is run by the Tribune Company.

The CTA, Chicago Department of Transportation and the Divvy bike sharing program Tuesday are hosting Transpiathalon, an innovation discussion. As of Monday afternoon, that session is closed.

Tracy's No Bus Ride

As part of a pledge to ride along every CTA bus route from start to finish, GP tried to ride the No. 111A Pullman shuttle—the new bus service to the new Pullman Wal-Mart—but the bus didn't arrive for its two earliest scheduled runs Monday morning.

The bus, which began operating earlier this month, is supposed to start weekdays at 10 a.m. The bus didn't show up for its 10 a.m. or 10:20 a.m. scheduled runs. Since the bus isn't on Bus Tracker, there was no way of knowing if or when it would arrive. The CTA cited a personnel issue for the delays.

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