Transit users across Chicagoland will be able to fully access CTA, Metra and Pace from the smartphone in their pocket starting next year thanks to a first-ever Ventra mobile app that can be used to pay for rides on all three transit systems with a few taps on their mobile devices.
The Ventra mobile app, approved today by the CTA Board, will provide riders a “one-stop shopping” experience — allowing users to add transit value and load passes on their Ventra card, check account balances and receive real-time account alerts. The free app, which will be developed by the CTA, Metra and Pace, will be available for use on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets starting in 2015. The intergovernmental agreement with CTA and related agreements regarding the app are subject to Metra board approval.
The Ventra app will also allow Metra riders, for the first time, to purchase and display tickets on their smartphones using a Ventra account or personal credit or debit card.
“CTA, Metra and Pace have been working together closely to develop an app that will improve the customer experience and give transit riders new ways to pay fares that were impossible before the CTA implemented a modern, open-fare payment system,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. Claypool, along with Metra Board Chairman Martin Oberman and Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno, appeared before the CTA Board Wednesday to discuss the mobile app.
“Essentially, this app will put a Ventra vending machine in your pocket, giving you the ability to manage your account from wherever it’s most convenient for you, whether you ride CTA, Metra or Pace, or all of them,” Claypool said.
“This new app is a major enhancement for Metra riders,” Orseno said. “It not only will offer our customers a fast and easy way to buy and display Metra tickets on their smartphones, it will also give them the option of using a Ventra account to do it. We fully expect our riders to embrace this convenient new technology.”
“We provide connections to CTA and Metra service at so many locations throughout our service area, so this is a major step forward for customers who transfer between our services,” said Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross. “We’re fortunate that the Ventra system provides the technology to offer more convenience to our shared customers than ever before.”
“We are pleased that the CTA, Metra and Pace have joined together to provide Northeastern Illinois with a regional fare payment system,” said RTA Acting Executive Director Leanne Redden. “We believe the proposal put forth today is in line with what the law envisions and more. We look forward to the positive impact a mobile app will have on improving the travel experience in our region.”
The mobile app will be rolled out in phases, starting in the first half of 2015. The first phase will allow users to:
- Add transit value and passes
- Check account balances
- Manage funding sources
- View transaction history
- Sign up for customizable account notifications and alerts for account balance, low balance, expiring passes
- Use Metra mobile ticketing, using a Ventra account or personal credit/debit card. This will be visual proof of payment—showing a ticket/pass on a mobile screen instead of presenting a paper ticket/pass to a Metra conductor.
Later phases to come in 2015 will provide additional account management features (e.g. card ordering, replacing a lost/stolen card), multiagency transit tracking features, and an integrated regional trip planner with service information for CTA, Metra and Pace that allows customers to navigate the region from door to door using all three transit systems.
By early 2016, the app will allow customers to download a virtual Ventra card onto their Near Field Communications-compatible mobile devices, which will allow them to access their Ventra transit accounts to pay for rides on trains and buses directly from the Ventra app by touching the phone or device to a Ventra reader.
Specific timetables for each phase of the rollout are still being finalized. Customer feedback and insights will be used to help guide the development process.
The app development cost is budgeted at $2.5 million, to be split among the three transit agencies. The app and supporting system are being provided through a partnership of Cubic Transportation Systems, the operator of the Ventra fare payment system, and GlobeSherpa, an industry leader in mobile app development and mobile ticketing platforms for transit. GlobeSherpa has previously developed transit apps for Portland’s TriMet transit system, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the Virginia Railway Express, among others.
Click here to view an information overview sheet.