Two Loyola University Chicago graduate students—with the help of the Rogers Park community—have developed an app letting CTA riders know if elevators are out of service.
The app, dubbed Elevate Chicago, sends push notifications to its users alerting them of any status change of the elevators on their preferred CTA “L” platforms.
During an independent study the summer after their first semester of Loyola’s graduate program, students Sam Siner and Tyler Arndt decided that they wanted to develop an app to benefit their community, eventually settling on “L” platform elevators.
“We bounced around a whole bunch of ideas, and we gathered ideas from friends and family,” Siner said. “We came upon this idea of CTA elevators knowing that CTA accessibility is such a big thing that a lot of people need. We started posting on the Rogers Park Neighborhood News Facebook page and found pretty quickly that there was a need for this specifically.”
Feedback concluded that accessibility to train platforms extended beyond commuters with disabilities: people with strollers; elderly riders with difficulty walking; tourists carrying luggage around the city; the app aims to help all the different populations who use the elevators on the CTA.
The Android app connects to the CTA database, accessing all elevator information and providing it to the user. The app gives the user a general overview of the status of each train line’s elevators, but the user is also able to “favorite” a specific station for quicker viewing. If the status of the elevators were to change in a “favorited” platform, the app sends push notifications telling users of the change.
CTA currently has a text alert system to notify riders on the status of platforms, sending emails or texts whenever any malfunctions occur, but the system is designed to alert users of changes in any stations within a line. The app, in turn, allows commuters to focus on specific stations, making notifications more user friendly.
“We thought ‘we have this idea that we think is useful, but we don’t necessarily use elevators ourselves for platforms’,” said Arndt. “So, let’s put it out there and see if it works, and we got a lot of good feedback from people saying, ‘yeah, we need another tool to help us out here.’”
Right now, only 70% of train platforms have elevators, information which the app also displays. In July 2018 however, the CTA released the All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP), promising to make every station entirely accessible, including elevators. The app will update as more platform elevators are added to the system.
Elevate Chicago is currently only available on Android devices, but Siner has said that a push to iOS will release “tentatively at the end of summer” as the result of another independent study.
“We wanted to do something that we could accomplish, and that would help the community. Not just a class project that we would do and forget about,” Siner said.