Paying for CTA parking by phone is precursor to tap-and-go at farebox

Here’s hoping Monday’s CTA announcement that many of its park-and-ride customers can pay with their mobile phones means the agency will bring “tap-and-go” payments to the farebox much quicker.

Riders who use CTA parking lots near the Blue, Brown, Green, Orange and Pink Lines will be able to pay for parking via phone and a credit or debit card linked to their account. From the news release:

Once riders pull into their parking spaces, they can place a phone call or use the mobile application on their web-enabled cell phones to enter their parking space number and begin the transaction. Payments are secure and linked to a credit or debit card. Once your parking session is paid for, Parkmobile will send text alerts about 15 minutes before parking sessions are scheduled to expire.

The payment system is perhaps a test and precursor to the “tap-and-go” fare payment system to board buses and trains. The CTA has promised to scrap the current proprietary-fare systems for an open fare system, where the rider would simply “tap” their contactless credit, debit and bank cards or CTA-branded prepaid cards on a card reader to board. The change is expected in come in 2014 under a $454 million contract to Cubic Transportation Systems.

Research shows that the riding public has a big appetite for such a change. In a recent survey of Chicago commuters, 71% of riders said they are likely to use a tap-and-go payment card for mass transit. Additionally, 81% of Chicago commuters who use more than one mode of mass transit reported they are likely to use a tap-and-go payment card for mass transit. The survey was conducted by MasterCard Worldwide and Harris Interactive.

This will be a big improvement, especially for bus riders who may find it hard to “refill” their transit cards. Currently that can be done only at rail stations.


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  • I was wondering how the Parkmobile app would work, since only a handful of phones have the NFC chips to work with a contactless payment.

    It looks like their app doesn't actually use that technology at all, just has you enter in the area you parked (see on an iPhone, which definitely doesn't support NFC) and lets the affiliating parking agency/company know you are paying through them. This is fairly different then the phone basically giving your payment information via the tap-and-go/NFC readers.

  • In reply to sargas:

    Sargas, I'm sorry - I didn't mean to imply that the parking lots use "tap-and-go" to pay. I was just pointing out that this is a first step toward that - it takes money directly from your credit or debit card. This is unlike the Chicago Card Plus that takes $20 and uses it, then takes it again and again.

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    Can someone explain to me how a tap-and-go card system using "CTA-branded prepaid cards" is any different than the current ChicagoCard or ChicagoCard+ system? I feel like I'm missing something here.

  • In reply to Joseph Finn:

    Joseph, the main difference will be taht you can use a credit/debit card to deduct the fare right away.. I suspect that if you want to use a monthly pass, you may have to use a CTA-issued card.

  • In reply to Joseph Finn:

    There isn't any difference!
    That's the dirty little secret about it.
    The CTA spent at least $100 million to convert to farecards, new fareboxes for buses & new turnstiles for L stations. None of that will change.
    What they're hoping for is that the credit card companies will start issuing "chip & PIN" cards in this country, like they do in the rest of the world. But the hangup on that is who pays for all the new equipment at the cash registers, the merchants or the credit card companies or will they split the cost?
    This will be as successful as when the CTA put AAR [Association of American Railroads] barcodes on all the L cars back in the 1960s, in the bizarre belief that they would be able to use those barcodes to switch trains at junctions.
    Eventually, even the AAR abandoned the barcodes as unworkable!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The new system will be based on NFC, which is totally independent from chip & PIN. Many of today's regular old magnetic strip cards already include NFC technology.

  • In reply to zolk:

    1. I don't know of any card issuer in the US that's putting it in their cards.
    2. It doesn't matter. It's a classic "chicken or egg" situation.
    Until they decide who pays for the new POS terminals, nothing is going to happen.
    You need to start living in the real world, the one where the free market banks want the government to pay for all their goodies, like new POS terminals!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I'm pretty sure we've had this discussion before.

    Almost every major US credit card issuer now includes contactless payment in their cards. My cards from Chase, American Express, and Discover all have contactless payment (typically branded payWave, Zip, Blink, etc). I already "touch and go" when paying at Walgreens.

    Again, we're talking about NFC and contactless payment, not chip & PIN. These are two independent technologies. The former is rather widely available, while the later is still very limited. CTA's implementation will not use chip & PIN, which isn't even a contactless technology.

  • In reply to zolk:

    And Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo & numerous others haven's done it.
    And other than your Walgreens, you can't use your card contactless!
    It's just going to be the CTA's own cards for the next decade!
    My cards don't have it!

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    In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I agree with Zolk...I use contactless payment all the time. CVS, Walgreens, the grocery store, 7-11, McDonalds, Fare Ticket machines I have used in New Jersey and Portland all had contactless payment.
    And I have contactless cards or tags from Discover, Chase, Amex, and Citicard.

    ScooterLibby needs to get out more....

  • Let play "Correct the CTA news release."

    I see at least 3 mistakes in this news release, plus several more things that a good writer would never let get past the self-proofing phase. Claypool's quote is a good example of this poor writing.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I read the release & not only don't I see a single spelling or grammar error, there's also nothing bad about the writing in Claypool's statement.
    You may not agree with any of it, but at least they spelled everything right for once, unlike the "Bemont" maps!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Before you jump to the CTA's defense, maybe you should re-read the news release. I see sloppy work, too. At a quick glance, I see two outright mistakes in the first paragraph. The rest of the release offers up more mistakes and sloppy writing/editing.

  • For the most part, this system has been in force in Metra owned lots for the past couple years, the only difference being the tap card.

    Of course, McDonalds, Mobil, and other merchants have had tap card capability for years.

    However, since CTA already issued a contract to Cubic for about $450 million to implement the fare system, this better not be a test of that concept, but Cubic better know how to implement it.

    But chris assures us that all will be fine.

  • In reply to jack:

    Incorrect Jack. I acknowledge that there is good and bad. You acknowledge only the bad.

  • In reply to chris:

    If Frosty Claypool needs my encouragement, he is more incompetent than what I thought. At least Rodriguez claimed enough accomplishments to get a job in the private sector.

    I acknowledge that Todd Stroger was a good racketball player. Did that make him a good County Board President?

    Blago wasn't corrupt 100% of the time. He gave your {bleep}ing grandma free rides.

    Wasting money is wasting money especially if it is the taxpayers' and apparently neither Quinn nor the feds are good on some of the "funding" promises they made.

    I'm glad you are so satisfied with how the CTA performs. Take a ride on the Dan Ryan branch, which was fixed in 2007 for seven months, and let us know how happy you are.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thank you for further proving my point.

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