CTA moves step closer to credit/debit card use as smart card for fares

Someday soon you’ll be able to use you debit or credit card to pay CTA fares instead of the CTA-issued smart card – the Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus. The CTA yesterday formally issued a Request for Proposal on the design, implementation, and operation of its so-called open fare collection system. (CTA Tattler wrote about this last year.)

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The CTA says 12 companies have already contacted them. Here’s the official word on this from CTA prez Richard Rodriguez:

“Reducing our expenses by continuing to leverage emerging technologies allows us to maximize our limited financial resources. The CTA will be able to update our fare equipment without an upfront capital cost. Our riders would have a more convenient, streamlined fare payment and reload option and our farecard partner would be able to expand their presence in the Chicago market by working with other retailers interested in offering promotions to the millions the CTA serves each day.”

All I want to know is this: Will this mean I won’t have to replace my Chicago Card Plus every 6 to 12 months?


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  • I just moved here and got a Chicago Card Plus -- am I missing something, or is there some reason why you'd have to replace your card every 6-12 months? I was under the impression they were good for four years, unless this is a case of the card just stops working frequently?

  • In reply to andrewesque:

    Andrew, the cards are indeed good for four years. But they are prone to damage and often have to be replaced sooner. I may have exaggerated a bit on the 6 months....

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    It's not much of an exaggeration.

  • In reply to andrewesque:

    If you're paying with your debit card, how would a monthly pass work? Or do you keep your Chicago Card Plus for that?

    I like the Chicago Card a lot (except for its horrible design - I bet any graphic design firm in the city would redesign this for free) and don't really want to give it up. It has potential to be iconic of Chicago, like a MetroCard for New York or an Oyster for London. With a new design on it, that is.

  • In reply to andrewesque:

    Assuming you have a card with a contactless chip (if you dont already you will likely be getting one soon) If you are paying with debit or credit card you would go onto the new CTA website and select that you want a monthly pass. It would then charge your card for a monthly pass. The alternative would be it would charge your card at the turnstile everytime you tap for a single fare

  • In reply to andrewesque:

    My first one was still in great shape and going strong when the CTA expired it for me. My second one, its replacement, is a little less than a year old and working well. I'm sure there are lemons out there, but I'm equally sure that how its owner treats it matters.

  • In reply to BobS:

    Oh that's right. Keeping it in its own holder made of anti-static paper and away from light and heat is how I've managed to go through 9 of them in the last 5 years.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Whatevs. I just keep mine in either my front pants pocket or my jacket pocket. And whatever pocket it's in, it's the only thing in there.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I moved to Japan from Chicago a couple years ago, and my train fare card that I use multiple times a day is actually a credit AND debit card all in one. I've had it since I got here, and it's never once failed.

    It's really nice never needing to fill up the card or worry about reloading. At the end of the month, the amount I used gets taken out of my bank account, after applying discounts. IE, 10 rides from Station A to Station B is a 10% discount, 20 rides is 20%, ect.

    I hope the CTA can apply something similar for when I move back!

  • In reply to Coollead:

    The PASMO card is indeed valid for both transit-related and non-transit-related expenses in Japan.
    But I haven't obtained one, even though I would likely use it enough that it wouldn't become idle, because much of metropolitan Tokyo & Yokohama still orbits around cash transactions. Plus, I find open tickets on Tokyo Metro to be sufficient for many of the days I am there.
    The rub for Chicago transit-heavy users is, in my vista, when you try to make the second transfer in the two-hour span, and you know you're close to that minute; when you touch your fare media to the device, you might not know whether you achieved the "T0" or whether you were dinged for another $2.25.

  • The answer to Kevin's last sentence is yes. Instead, you may have to change your bank card every 6 months. Let's hope you don't have to change your cell phone every 6 months.

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