The long-awaited Ventra app for smartphones will be released this Thursday, allowing users to buy and use Metra tickets and passes on their phones, and manage their CTA Ventra cards.
However, the ability to use your phone instead of a Ventra card to board a CTA train or bus won't come until later, with no known release date.
I tested the Ventra app on my iPhone over the last couple of months. After a couple of hiccups with getting my card linked to my bank account, testing went smoothly. I was able to check and add value to my Ventra card, and buy and use a Metra ticket.
The CTA decided to go slowly with the testing and release of this app, no doubt learning their lesson on the fairly aggressive release and transition to the Ventra card in late 2013.
After all, this app was developed for $2.5 million by Cubic Transportation Systems, the same folks who brought you the Ventra card payment system. That development fee was split among the CTA, Metra and Pace transit systems.
Certainly, Metra riders will get the most benefit out of this first release of the app because they finally can say good-bye to paper tickets and passes. Using the app, Metra riders can purchase a virtual ticket that they will show a Metra conductor. The virtual ticket is a color animation of a Metra train passing under the Chicago skyline.
Also embedded in the app is a real-time train and bus tracker for CTA, Metra and Pace routes, as well as nearby transit options. Of course other apps provide this information. You'll have to judge for yourself whether you like the convenience of being able to "do it all" in this one app.
For a rare Metra user like me who uses the autoload feature to add value to my Ventra card, this app is not that useful. So I will be eagerly awaiting the day when I can use my iPhone to pay my CTA fare.
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