Testers needed to try paying for Metra, Pace with phone app

Updated 3/21/2015 9:26 AM
  • The Ventra card will have a rival soon. Metra, Pace and the CTA are rolling out a new Ventra app this May or June.

    The Ventra card will have a rival soon. Metra, Pace and the CTA are rolling out a new Ventra app this May or June. Daily Herald File Photo

Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority are seeking guinea pigs to try out a new transit app that will debut in a few months.

Already, agency employees are testing the smartphone Ventra app, which will let people buy and display Metra mobile fares in lieu of paper tickets.

The app also will allow people to access the Ventra system and add value to their accounts, buy passes and get notifications, planners from all three agencies said Friday at a demonstration of the app.

The app will be launched in May or June as soon as all the kinks are worked out of the system, hence the need for volunteers to help test it.

Another feature is an integrated bus and train tracker that provides real-time arrival predictions, Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said.

Pace and CTA jump-started the Ventra program in 2014 by offering a card that allows riders to access buses and el trains. The smartphone app brings Metra into the fold.

Volunteers will need a smartphone from Android or Apple and is preferably no older than three years.

Officials are seeking a "diverse" group of participants from across the region who "ride and pay in different ways." Go to metrarail.com, pacebus.com or transitchicago.com for additional information.

The app is a work in progress and different features will be added over the next year. In 2016, CTA and Pace riders with compatible smartphones should be able to use the app to board buses and enter train stations.

"It's like a vending machine in your pocket; it does everything the website does," CTA external electronic communications manager Tony Coppoletta said.

Metra will pay about $500,000 for its share of producing the app.

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