Beyond the Bus blog logo

Advancing Technology to Better Serve Riders and Community

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Categories: Blog

By Dan Goodemoot, Director of Information Technology Services

A half-century after its founding, CATA is leading the way with technological advances that improve customer experience and safety, while enhancing accessibility, reliability and efficiency. From CATA’s initial trials with electric vehicles in 1973, to the modern hybrid buses that dominate the fleet today, CATA embraces innovation as a guiding principle.

Adopting new technologies that improve the transit experience for CATA riders is always a top priority.

Tech Upgrades:

MyRideCATA app - Launched February 2022

Earlier this year, Spec-Tran customers were provided another technology tool with the introduction of a new mobile app called MyRideCATA. The free app allows customers to schedule, track and manage rides on their mobile devices. Spec-Tran riders still have the option to call for a ride reservation or book online.

Cybersecurity - Fall 2022

In a world where advancing technology can enable hackers to infiltrate sensitive computer systems, CATA is taking major steps to enhance cybersecurity across all technology platforms. In 2022, CATA hosted a conference – the first in Michigan – that engaged the Federal Transit Administration to conduct cybersecurity training for transportation agencies across the state. Staff is also working with a security consultant to update security-response plans in different emergency situations.

Advancements in CATA’s internal financial system have increased efficiencies across the complex accounting processes to benefit employees, vendors and partners. Staff is also working diligently to enhance the security of information technology systems by establishing redundancy in CATA’s computer networks to ensure that system failures don’t hamper operations.

Automatic vehicle location - Fall 2022

This fall, customers will see upgrades to the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems on CATA buses. AVL provides CATA operators real-time information about their routes, so they can improve on-time performance.

Contactless payment options - Summer 2023

The Authority is in the process of upgrading fareboxes across the CATA fleet, which will allow riders to make contactless payment. Instead of physically touching the farebox, riders will be able to tap their credit card or use a smartphone app to pay their fare. This upgrade, to be completed in the next year, will further enhance passenger and operator safety and increase CATA’s operational efficiency by speeding up the boarding process.

Cameras on buses - Summer 2023

Expanding the installation of cameras on a greater number of CATA buses is yet another effort that will enhance safety for riders and bus operators. Cameras were first installed in 2018 in paratransit vehicles, operated by subcontractor Transdev. Extending this technology to fixed-route service will improve reliability and deter unwelcome activity aboard large buses. High-definition cameras will be installed on several bus routes over the next few months and across CATA’S fixed-route service area. Cameras will continue to be used only to ensure a safe transit experience while riding with CATA.

Michigan Public Safety Communication System

Improving community safety is CATA’s goal in partnering with the Michigan Public Safety Communication System – the second-largest trunked radio network in the world. First responders across the state use this system to communicate during emergency situations, and CATA is now a member of the network. When there was a major accident on I-96, for example, this system allowed law enforcement to communicate directly with one of our bus operators to request a warming bus, which quickly arrived on the scene to provide safe-haven for those involved in the incident. This advancement in communications technology enhances public safety because the radio system is monitored 24/7, allowing CATA to step in and help keep our communities safe at any time. This year, we will continue to invest in radio upgrades, so CATA is ready to respond whenever called upon to assist.

Together, these innovations will enhance the experience of CATA riders by improving both security and efficiencies.

This content has been published in the 2022 Community Report.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Collaboration Meets Innovation to Create a New CATA Bus Stop

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Categories: Blog, Community, Employees

Collaboration and innovative ideas are part of what makes our team so special – especially when they’re least expected. 

Nick Zickefoose, a customer experience representative at CATA, saw a need in the community and set out to fulfill it. 

Using Teamwork and Customer Feedback to Turn an Idea into Reality

A CATA rider contacted Nick suggesting a new bus stop on Route 9 in front of Atlas Meds Pharmacy. “He told me about how a lot of elderly and disabled customers use that particular pharmacy, but they had to walk from the current Route 9 stops to get there – which isn’t always easy for someone depending on their situation,” Nick said. Before a new stop was in place, the walk to Atlas Meds Pharmacy was several blocks. 

“The addition of this stop made sense from a number of angles,” said Kai Christiansen, the CATA Service Planning and Scheduling Manager. 

Kai received an email from Nick with the new bus stop suggestion. “I didn’t want to just let [the] request go unheard as it sounded like it had the potential to help a lot of people,” Nick said. “I remembered being told early in my time at CATA about Kai Christiansen over in planning and he’s incredibly good with these sorts of things.”

CATA Customer Experience Representative Nick Zickefoose


Kai was pleasantly surprised when Nick reached out to him and immediately got to work. “The quality of the information which Nick provided to me made my work easy,” Kai said. He noted it was "clear and actionable, making this process very straightforward.”

How a New Bus Stop is Created

The creation of a new CATA bus stop involves communication with stakeholders and configuration to meet customer, property owner and municipal needs. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance is also important. 

Once the stop has been designed, the building can begin. A contractor is methodically chosen, geolocation is added and a stop number is assigned.

The process to create a new bus stop involves CATA’s planning, facilities and procurement departments. It wouldn’t be possible without a strong and passionate team.

“It is always rewarding to be able to help facilitate the needs of our customers and create transportation solutions that make sense,” Kai said. 

The new stop on Route 9 is now up and running on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in front of Atlas Meds Pharmacy.

CATA bus stop #6081 in front of Atlas Meds Pharmacy

CATA’s priority continues to be meeting the mobility needs of our region. This priority is made possible in part through our dynamic, collaborative workforce. 

To learn more about Nick Zickefoose and the collaborative efforts of his department, click here.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

The Nationwide #SoundTheHorn Campaign

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Categories: Blog, Community, Employees

Traffic lights and cars on Michigan Ave

On the road, horn honks are typically used to alert other drivers or pedestrians. Today, they will be used to say two words: thank you.

At 3 p.m., our operators will honk their horns twice in solidarity with transportation workers nationwide as part of the #SoundTheHorn campaign.

“We proudly sound our horn today in honor of transit workers the world over who are doing their part to contain this tragic pandemic,” said CATA CEO Bradley T. Funkhouser. CATA participated in the original campaign on April 16 and again on May 21.

Operators will sound the horn once to thank healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, first responders, gas station employees, and other heroes who are performing critically essential work during COVID-19. They will sound the horn a second time to thank transportation workers nationwide for getting these essential workers where they need to go.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the dedication and commitment of our own essential workforce has been nothing short of heroic,” Funkhouser said. “Our call takers have fielded tens of thousands of calls. Our operators, mechanics, utilities and facilities personnel are working together to fulfill life-sustaining and medically necessary trips, as well as trips to get critical-infrastructure employees to work, often at great personal risk.”

Searching for your own ways to thank essential workers and spread positivity during COVID-19? Check out a few ideas here.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Theme picker

Submit your story

We want to hear from you! Share your story about a great ride, a driver that went above and beyond or how CATA helps you get around the community for a chance to be featured in a future blog post.

If you have a customer experience question or concern, please use our Contact Us form or call us directly at 517-394-1000.

Subscribe to blog updates