Are other fare options on Metra's horizons?

  • Gilbert R. Boucher/gboucher@dailyherald.com, October 2012Do Metra commuters want a yearly pass?

    Gilbert R. Boucher/gboucher@dailyherald.com, October 2012Do Metra commuters want a yearly pass?

 
 
Updated 9/19/2014 5:28 PM

Regular Metra riders could be offered the chance to buy a yearly pass if studies show customers want that option and the agency would benefit.

It's an optimal time to explore new fare structures as Metra begins rolling out more ways for passengers to pay, board directors and administrators said at a Friday meeting in Libertyville.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We need to analyze what we can do to make fare purchases easier for our customers," Executive Director Don Orseno said. Metra officials cited as an example Germany's commuter rail agency, which offers riders the opportunity to purchase one-year, monthly and weekly passes.

"Is it (an annual pass) something our riders would like? Would it be something we can do? (Right now) I don't know," Orseno said.

Currently, Metra sells one-ride, 10-ride and monthly passes.

Historically the agency's offered a "hodgepodge pricing structure that doesn't provide for the future of Metra," board Director and South Holland Mayor Don DeGraff said. "We need a fare structure that provides ownership."

This winter, planners said they expect to introduce a mobile ticketing option that allows riders to use an app to purchase and display fares on smartphones. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority debuted a similar app in 2012; so far about one-quarter of MBTA rail commuters are using it, senior division director Lynnette Ciavarella said.

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Metra also plans to add technology that allows ticket agents to accept contactless credit and debit cards within a few months, as required by a state law signed in 2011.

But it doesn't appear the agency will meet a January state deadline to offer a universal fare card that provides for a seamless transition between Metra, Pace and the CTA. Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority have already joined forces on Ventra, a joint fare card that is accepted in both systems.

Ciavarella said Metra was working with CTA and Pace on some type of collaboration but didn't give details.

"We feel we're complying with the spirit of the law," Orseno said.

Instead of the usual downtown Chicago meeting location, directors met at a Lake County government building in Libertyville.

Bill Baltutis, director of the transportation group TMA of Lake-Cook, took the opportunity to urge officials to increase trips on the North Central Service, which has no weekend service.

"Could we start a dialogue?" he asked.

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