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posted: 1/17/2014 5:57 PM

Tickets? Metra working toward an app for that

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  • Metra's looking at new ways to pay for fares.

      Metra's looking at new ways to pay for fares.
    Daily Herald File Photo


Coming this fall, Metra riders could buy tickets on trains using their smartphones and an app.

Metra planners said Friday they were preparing to send out a request to firms to submit proposals to design an app for ticketing.

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A similar app used by Boston's Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority premiered several months ago successfully, said Lynette Ciavarella, senior division director for strategic planning. The app would allow passengers to purchase a ticket on board and then activate it for the conductor to inspect.

The move would eliminate long lines at the end of the month at Union Station or Ogilvie Transportation Center when riders buy monthly passes. "That's gone if you put this app on your phone and utilize it," acting deputy executive director Peter Zwolfer said.

The proposed change was prompted by a 2011 state law that mandates that contactless credit cards or debit cards be accepted for payment by 2015. Currently, Metra conductors only accept cash on trains, although the agency takes credit at ticket counters and online.

But the other part of the law requires the creation of a universal fare card to be used seamlessly on Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority.

Pace and the CTA have already joined forces to offer the Ventra card fare system, which is in use currently.

Metra officials said they're working with the CTA on integrating Ventra cards.

"Right now we're looking at mobile (smartphone) ticketing and we'll see where we go next," Ciavarella said.

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