CHICAGO (CBS) — Pace has officially wedded itself to the Chicago Transit Authority’s effort to allow riders to pay their fares using credit and debit cards, and eventually using smart phones.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, the CTA Board Wednesday approved an agreement that allows Pace to piggyback on an existing $454 million contract.

The CTA has been working with Cubic Transportation Systems to create a system that will allow the use of either “smart” credit cards that contain computer chips as well as reloadable transit cards for those who don’t have or wish to use credit cards.

CTA officials expect the rollout to begin late next year and in coming months will invite the major credit card companies and banks to bid for contracts to participate, which are expected to require them to absorb much, if not all, of CTA’s upfront installation costs.

The CTA hopes to be able to exit the fare collection business in the transition, leaving that work to the bank or credit card company.

Pace, the same as the CTA, will have to replace its existing fare collection equipment, at a cost of $54.8 million over 10 years.

Pace and the CTA have shared fare-collection technology for years, so this was the easy part of the drive to a universal fare card, sought after by the Regional Transportation Authority almost from the time of its founding in the 1970s.

It will be more difficult to integrate Metra into the fold, because of its zoned distance-based fares and open platforms. CTA President Forrest Claypool said even when the transition is complete, each agency will retain control over its own fares, and said the technology will be designed to know each.

The Illinois General Assembly last year approved legislation that requires implementation of the universal system by 2015.

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