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Metra, CTA, Pace Could Be Closer To Universal Fare System

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(Credit: CBS)

(Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Metra, the CTA and Pace have never had a fully compatible ticketing system, but technology may make it possible in time to meet a 2015 legislative mandate.

The RTA has talked about a universal fare card since the 1970s, but the closest it has come is the Link-Up pass pasted to a Metra monthly ticket.

A few years ago, the talk was about card-readers installed at seats on Metra trains, with boxcar-sized $170 million installation costs. Two years ago, the talk turned to smart credit cards.

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Now, Metra Strategic Capital Planning Director Lynette Ciavarella said area transit agencies are closely watching the testing in New York and Boston of a smart phone-based ticketing system.

“(It’s) where a customer is able to actually purchase the ticket on their mobile device and then they’re able to get onto the train and the ticket itself will be a visual ticket so the conductors will be able to come through the cars and visualize, see that ticket,” she said.

The testing has just begun in both cities, she said.

Ciavarella said there is no guarantee that any system currently in testing elsewhere will be tested here, simply because technology is changing so fast. The RTA hopes to begin testing some system next summer.

All three agencies and the RTA are meeting jointly to continue discussions on fully compatible ticketing options. The CTA is working with Cubic Transportation, who was awarded a contract last November to begin design and implementation of an open standards fare system. Most, recently Pace was added to the contract.

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