The Chicago Transit Authority and Pace will roll out a joint fare system this August and September.
Dubbed Ventra, the program allows riders to use a contactless card to board trains and buses on either Pace or the CTA. The change was mandated by state lawmakers for all three transit agencies to have a universal fare program in place by 2015, but Metra is still working on its version.
Starting in August, Ventra cards will be available for use by registered Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus users as well as students at Chicago colleges using U-Passes.
Pace also is working with schools to integrate suburban students taking transit into the Ventra program.
In September, Ventra cards will be available to all Pace and CTA riders from kiosks at train stations and at numerous retail locations including national chains.
By December, Ventra is expected to be fully in place and all previous cards phased out.
Pace will start holding open houses to explain the changes throughout the region in July, Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said.
Passengers can purchase Ventra cards and add value with cash, credit or debit cards. The two agencies will maintain their separate fee structures, and the Ventra system will identify specific Pace or CTA fares and deduct them from the cards. That means if you want to buy a Pace monthly pass and a CTA weekend pass, for example, it will all be incorporated into one Ventra card. Riders also could pay for buses or trains with contactless debit or credit cards that will directly subtract fares from personal accounts.