Pace joins CTA in new fare collection system

Use of a single fare card across different transit systems took a step closer to reality Wednesday when the CTA board approved an agreement to let Pace install and operate the CTA's open fare system.

Last fall the CTA announced it will replace its current fare system with an open fare system, using contactless cards that use both financial and information security industry “open standards” technology. When implemented in 2014, rider will “tap” their contactless credit, debit and bank cards or CTA-branded prepaid cards on a card reader to board trains and buses.

The new system will be built by Cubic Transportation Systems under a $454.1 million contract. Pace will pay the CTA $54.8 million to be added to the Cubic contract, which is now valued at $508.9 million.

One key advantage to adding Pace to the contract is it will add 500 retail locations where customers can purchase and reload the prepaid cards. CTA and Pace locations will bring the total retail outlets to 2,500 locations in Chicago and suburbs.

Now we just have to get Metra on board with a universal fare card. And all three RTA transit sisters are required by state law to issue a single smart card that riders of all three transit agencies can use to pay fares by 2015.


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  • As a daily Metra rider, I can't wait to see what sort of cumbersome, unfriendly system they end up having to put in place to make their zone-based fare paradigm compatible with CTA/Pace's flat fee paradigm.

    What, me pessimistic?

  • In reply to Espio:

    Where's the "Like" button on this comment!

    Well said.

  • In reply to Espio:

    What Metra needs is to install machines in their stations & on platforms where people would pick the two stations they're traveling between, tap their card against the reader & out would pop a printed ticket for that ride or if those chose a round trip or ten ride, print out a ticket with the zones on it with attached coupons the conductor would punch & tear off to leave in the clip.
    I don't know if a reader is around that the conductors could carry to do a similar job.
    I know that the city revenue dept. has issued portable machines to print out a parking ticket, but can a similar machine also deduct the correct fare?
    Seems a bit complicated for the conductors to use.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The Minnesota people on said something similar is being used on the Hiawatha line, including a conductor's automated reader of the proximity card. However, when I asked them about it, they said that scanning in required a separate kiosk for each fare zone. That might work on a single line, but I questioned how that would work at, say, Union Station, where there are 6 lines, each with zones from A to J.

    Maybe something like the IC and then Metra had on the electric line might be a foundation, but the people on that line rebelled against it.

  • In reply to jack:

    The people on the Electric rebelled against having to use the card 3 times to: 1 enter through a turnstile - 2 show the ticket on-board - 3 use the ticket to exit.

    On the 'L' you use the ticket to: 1 to enter - no on-board - no exit check; on the other Metra lines: 1 on-board

    It would take less than a week to figure out how to integrate ALL the Fare modes and types (like zone vs flat fee) - if they "really" want to.

    Also, CTA and Pace have already chosen Cubic as their supplier - why is Metra still hunting around for "it's own" supplier when utilizing Cubic would Make Sure all the systems matched from the ground up?.

  • On the last one, I think investigating it separately is prudent for several reasons.

    1. The RTA should have done this itself. However, there seems no reason that just because CTA committed itself to Cubic for 10 years at $450 million that the Metra board should abdicate its responsibilities* and say that it will sign, say, a $300 million no bid deal that might not meet its needs, just because CTA has a vendor. As I noted earlier, the only thing that seems mandated by state law is that it be an open fare system, not that it has to be CTA's.

    2. You still haven't addressed the two issues unique to Metra--i.e. zone fares, and, except on the ME and a couple of places where the tracks are on embankments or in trenches, that loading is on street level and not in a controlled area. Are you advocating building platforms on all the diesel lines? Won't happen. Will there be a $2.25 fare regardless of whether the trip is within Zone A or to Kenosha or McHenry? Won't happen.

    *Not like that that board hasn't abdicated its responsibilities before.

  • In reply to jack:

    Maybe Metra could just buy fareboxes similar to what's already on the buses, but designed to be built into what's now an empty compartment the conductors use.
    Metrolink in LA has platform machines that you buy your ticket from or validate a 10 ride ticket. But their conductors rarely check the tickets, that's usually done by the sheriff's department & non-paying riders are immediately arrested. The LA subway, which had been barrier free & operated the same way is now in the process of installing turnstiles, so riding on the honor system didn't work there.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I don't see the point to the fare box. Metra has the same fine technology as the streetcars had 120 years ago--a conductor with a coin changer.

    The only point is that the legislature mandated an open fare medium system. Among other things, that is supposed to cut down on handling cash.

    But it seems like you and Mike (on are hung up on telling Metra how to implement that system, when I'm sure that there are plenty of vendors who know how to do it (including portable readers of the proximity cards) and are willing to make a proposal.

  • In reply to jack:

    jack - if the Red Line extension to were to be constructed, do you think it's stations would have turnstiles? Ford City Orange Line? Yellow Line to Old Orchard; why, or why not?

  • If you don't care what I think, why do you ask?

    However, I suggest you use Google to search for essentially "intergovernmental agreement + Skokie" to see how much CTA charged Skokie for obsolete fare collection equipment for the Oakton station.

  • In reply to jack:

    To watch how you evade the question.

    It is no point discussing anything with you, your mind is unchangeable - so why waste time?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Sorry, meant Northstar Line.

  • In reply to Espio:

    It's so stupid that you can't purchase a ticket from a vending machine like you can in the rest of the world.

  • In reply to chris:

    Well, you can, at any Metra Electric station, and a conductor says that those tickets are valid anywhere on Metra.

    Also, Metra gets an extra $2 if you pay on the train, but there was an agent or vending machine available.

    The main issue is that most Metra riders use monthlies, so the other issue (probably a much easier one to solve) is how to translate them into open media.

  • In reply to jack:

    Sorry, but it's been an extra $3 to pay on board since the recent fare increase.
    I'm flat out flabbergasted at the people who do so leaving Downtown because I see them board with at least 5 minutes to spare.
    I've seen people going only to Clybourn do this!
    I know it's cheaper than a cab, but................?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Right you are. I missed that part of the last fare hike.

    In addition to why people get on at CUS without a ticket, I've also seen conductors charge them one zone too many.

    But, unlike CTA riders, apparently some Metra ones are willing to make a "charitable contribution."

  • In reply to jack:

    Sorry, but Clybourn is out of Olgilvie.
    And CTA riders do make charitable contributions to the CTA.
    Every card that's unused with 5¢ to 15¢ I've found over the years is also a charitable contribution.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I didn't say otherwise. I said that "I saw" out of CUS conductors hitting passengers without tickets for an extra zone. Don't know if they also do it on the UPN or UPNW.

    Also, 5 cents to 15 cents is not $3.50 now. Unlike the GroupOn deal, I don't think CTA makes it up on the volume, especially if it is still saying that the unlinked trip yields about $1.

    Which makes me wonder that, while the GroupOn deal makes more sense the more I think about it, how the CTA is going to play with that statistic.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I've done that myself, you don't want to risk being stuck in that unpredictable ticket line and miss your train.

  • In reply to jack:

    Metra also has credit-card-only ticket vending machines at Union and Ogilvie. These machines sell monthlies and 10-rides as well as single tickets.


    Updated 06/13/12 – 6:18 p.m.

    CHICAGO (CBS) — CTA officials have been working hard behind the scenes to have some answers to placate South Side Red Line riders when two public hearings take place next week on the reconstruction project, and its scheduled five month shutdown.

    “Folks from Altgeld Gardens could face three-hour trips to get to their jobs downtown,” said rider Michael Payne, in comments to the CTA’s board Wednesday.

    He said a bus-dependent plan is fraught with problems in the event of accidents and the inevitable rush-hour traffic tie-ups.

    CTA Chairman Terry Peterson said that has already been anticipated, and said Thursday that he has initiated talks at the highest level to minimize problems.

    He said he has met with Acting Metra Chairman Larry Huggins and that CTA President Forrest Claypool and Metra CEO Alex Clifford also have spoken.

    The focus is how Metra can adjust schedules on its Electric and Rock Island Districts to accommodate more riders.

    The Electric District’s lines, in particular, were built for far more riders than it carries today. Payne suggested setting up CTA fare equipment at Electric District stations and letting riders use either fare card.

    Huggins asked Payne for a detailed proposal.

    The first hearing of the hearings will occur 6-8 p.m. Monday at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr. CTA will host a second hearing at the same time Thursday in the gymnasium of Kennedy-King College, at 6343 S. Halsted St.

    CTA will reroute Red Line trains to the Green Line, and close the south Red Line stations from Cermak/Chinatown to 95th, for complete track reconstruction and other upgrades. The $425 million project is the second round of heavy overhaul on the line since 2004, although CTA officials say this will be the most complete renovation since the line opened in 1969.

    Peterson said his goal is to operate trains, without slow zones, at a minimum of 55 miles an hour. The shutdown will allow the work to be completed in five months instead of an estimated four years if limited to off-peak and weekend hours. CTA expects train schedules to be shortened by 10 minutes once the work is completed in the fall of 2013.

    The CTA will also provide shuttle buses to Green Line rail stations as an alternative during the Red Line project. The closures affect nine stations, between the 95th Street terminal and the Roosevelt ‘L’ station. (See map below)

    Here is the tentative re-route plan for the CTA Red line. (Credit: CTA)

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