Nifty Ventra app gives web tools on app, plus sells Metra tickets

A nifty new Ventra app allows CTA riders to check and add value to their Ventra cards, as well as buy "virtual" Metra tickets.

CTA and Metra officials demonstrated the app Friday, and put out a call for volunteers to help with final testing before the app is formally released in May or June.

Using the smartphone app, CTA riders can do functions they now can only do at the Ventra website:

  • Check value
  • Add value
  • Buy passes

But it's the two other included features that really make it a worthy app to add to your phone:

  • Buy Metra tickets
  • Check all transit trackers, including CTA bus and rail, plus Metra arrivals and departures and Pace arrivals.

Future versions of the app will allow CTA riders to tap their smartphone against the fare reader, eliminating the need for a Ventra card. Check the photo gallery for more details of the app.


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  • Until the tap, it doesn't accomplish that much for other than a Metra rider, since one can presumably do the rest with the browser, even on a device. Thus it depends on how much a device owner needs an app rather than the browser.

    Maybe they will get there eventually, but considering all the problems they initially had getting Ventra to work, I wonder if someone is going to be charged twice once they institute the tap.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I disagree. The app is just so much easier to navigate than the website.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Website needs some work then, so somebody inform Tony.

    On the other hand, their BusTracker DIY tool looks pretty neat.

  • I agree with Jack. The app doesn't really add much value if you're a monthly pass user. I log on to the website monthly to verify that my monthly pass is still enabled for auto-renew, and that my $5 balance hasn't been dinged by a double tap.

    I don't have an issue with the mobile or full website. The mobile site greets you with the Login page, and a tap on the Transit Account button takes one to the Card 1 summary page.

    I'd like to see the smartphone "tap" feature soon. Pulling out my phone is much easier than pulling out my wallet, especially when I'm wearing a bulky winter coat.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Spiny, of course you're right the app doesn't add much value for a monthly pass user.

    Bottom line: Some people like using apps, others are just as happy to use the web interface. At least the CTA is now giving us choices.

    And the big news, as you say, is that the smartphone "tap" will be coming in the future to replace the Ventra card.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    I think the bigger story here is that they are actually testing it with potential users. Shocking, I know. Unlike the Ventra card rollout fiasco, maybe, just maybe, they learned a lesson, and are getting the feedback from users.

    As Randall point out, hopefully they won't be trying to grab who knows what data from my phone. I'll download the app tonight, and give it a shot. If it asks for permission to read my phone log, it'll get deleted instantly.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Spiny, it won't be available to download till May or June. Only available to selected testers now.

  • fb_avatar

    It is nice to see they are trying but tying Ventra and tracking together who knows what info they might collect without approval. I will stick with my own programs and transitbot since I do not need Metra tickits.

  • In reply to Randall Baxley:

    They aren't tracking you or your phone. BusTracker tells you when the next bus is. So, unless you think CTA is getting something out of the app equivalent of "ctabus 10807" to 41411, I don't see what the problem is. The Ventra log already says where you tapped your card.

  • In reply to jack:

    Mobile apps have a very nasty habit of asking for too much data from your phone, much of it having nothing to do with the application at hand. I love calculator apps that ask permission to retrieve location data, or games that want permission to access your contact list.

    Most users simply click through the permission screen without looking at the permissions they are granting. I really hope Android some day allows a user to customize the permissions granted. Now you either grant all the permissions, or you don't install the app.

    Until the app is downloaded and installed, there's no way of knowing what they'll be asking for.

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