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Pay For The CTA Directly With Your Debit Card?

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Red Line Train

A CTA Red Line train arrives at the Lake Street stop. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 11/15/11 9:51 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Transit Authority is looking to try a high-tech method to make paying for your commute a little easier, without exact change or disposable fare cards.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, the CTA Board is set to meet early Tuesday afternoon. At the meeting, they intend to discuss the contentious 2012 budget, which President Forrest Claypool says he plans to pass without fare hikes or service cuts, provided that $160 million in union work rule changes are approved.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports


But separately, the CTA is set to discuss and vote on an entirely new way to prepare for your rides.

The more than $450 million fare collection system is patterned on similar systems that have won raves in Europe and Asia. If it is put into use in Chicago, riders will eventually be able to pay for trains and buses directly with their debit or credit cards.

In several years, riders would even be able to pay using smart phones.

Cash would ultimately be phased out on ‘L’ trains, but would still be an option for bus riders.

Pre-paid cards would still be available for purchase by riders who don’t use debit or credit cards. Those pre-paid cards would be available at twice as many locations as the current 700 in operation right now.

The California-based company Cubic would be brought in to install the new fare collection system. The CTA says it can save $5 million per year by farming out fare collections to a private company, according to published reports.

Reaction to the proposed new fare collection system was mixed, but generally positive, near the Belmont Red-Brown-Purple Line stop early Tuesday.

“That’s nifty, I think,” one woman said outside of Clarke’s restaurant at Belmont and Wilton avenues. “I run out of cash all the time.”

“I think it would be great,” added commuter Waseem Mohamed. “I mean, I saw the same system in New York, and you don’t have to have cash in your pocket. You just pay by cards. I think that would be easy for everyone.”

Mohamed said paying with a cell phone would also be a welcome option.

“Everyone is using a cell phone for banking and Internet and everything, so I think that would be great,” he said.

But commuter Keith Taylor proclaimed the idea “no good.”

“I don’t like it, not at all, because I think they can get information from (credit or debit cards),” he said. “I don’t like it. No good.”

Until the late 1990s, riding the CTA required handing over cash or a token to a bus driver or ‘L’ stop ticket agent, and a flimsy paper transfer would be issued for an extra 30 cents.

The laminate Transit Card was introduced in 1997, and the CTA began promoting a debit system using the durable plastic Chicago Card in 2004.

If the new fare collection system is approved, it would likely go into use in about two years.

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