The year 2015 can't come soon enough.
That's when the CTA, Metra and Pace are required by state law to issue a single smart card that riders of all three transit agencies can use to pay fares.
Gov. Quinn signed the bill into law Thursday. Last year the agencies had jointly decided to develop just such a system. Now that agreement has the force of law.
The Tribune story nicely summarizes the challenges:
A major sticking point in moving to a universal fare card has been Metra's incompatibility with fare systems used by the CTA and Pace.
Unlike those agencies, Metra's fares are distance-based. Metra also has an "open" system, meaning customers don't go through a turnstile. In addition, the rail line has long balked at updating its technology. Metra conductors still punch tickets, and only started accepting credit cards for purchases in 2010.
The CTA is out in front of this issue. It announced last year it was working to let riders use credit cards to enter buses and turnstiles. And of course, the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus smart cards have been in use for years by passengers.