Metra set to debut app this spring

Metra is seeking volunteers to test a new mobile ticketing app for smartphones that will allow commuters to purchase and display tickets on their screens.

Interested riders can check the agency's website at for details in the coming weeks, officials said.

"We're trying to get as diverse a crowd as possible ... to test all the different functions of the app," spokeswoman Meg Reile said.

The app should debut in late May or early June for Metra riders.

"It allows the commuter to have a ticket vending machine in their pocket," manager of schedules and services Jeff Bratz said. Later, it serve as a virtual Ventra card for CTA and Pace customers to access trains and buses. Pace and CTA passengers will also be included in the trial.

In October, Metra hired Cubic Transportation Systems Chicago to create the app to be compatible with the CTA and Pace's Ventra card system, which the high-tech company developed. The app includes security features such as a moving screen and changing colors that verify it's a bona fide ticket and prevent images being photographed.

"You download your tickets onto the phone and when you get into your seat you launch the ticket," Bratz explained.

"Launching the ticket will allow the conductor to come by and ... identify where you're going, then ask you to tap the screen. When you tap the screen that's when the color shift will happen. That tells the conductor that it is a valid ticket."

The app will allow customers to display multiple tickets if they're traveling in a group. Passengers can use Ventra or credit cards to buy fares.

The agreement with Cubic is expected to cost Metra $500,000 for developing the app. In addition, maintenance, credit card fees and a commission on sales for Cubic should cost about $2 million a year.

The app will be available for Apple and Android platforms.

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