Ventra mobile app announced for 2015

Paige Leskin, City Editor

Ventra will release a mobile app in 2015 that will allow users to pay fare using their smartphones when riding the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace bus system.

Approved by the Chicago Transit Board on Wednesday, the free app will allow users to add transit value and passes onto their Ventra card, check account balances and get account notifications starting in 2015, the three public transit systems under the Regional Transportation Authority announced.

The app will enable riders to pay for the Metra with a Ventra card, the system currently used by Pace and the CTA. Metra riders will be able to purchase and display their ticket to conductors on a smartphone, according to a news release. Tickets can be purchased with a Ventra account or with a personal credit or debit card.

“Essentially, this app will put a Ventra vending machine in your pocket, giving you the ability to manage your account from wherever it’s most convenient for you, whether you ride CTA, Metra or Pace, or all of them,” CTA President Forrest Claypool said in a news release.

The budget for developing the app is at $2.5 million and will be made available for Apple and Android devices.

The capabilities of the app will be issued in phases. The first version will also give users the ability to review their transaction history and customize phone alerts that can notify customers of account balances and expiring transit passes.

Later features, set for 2015, will include options for ordering cards and replacing lost and stolen ones. The app will also provide transit tracking and a regional trip planner that integrates all three public transit systems into navigation.

“We provide connections to CTA and Metra service at so many locations throughout our service area, so this is a major step forward for customers who transfer between our services,” Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross said in a news release. “We’re fortunate that the Ventra system provides the technology to offer more convenience to our shared customers than ever before.”

A feature that allows CTA and Pace users to pay by touching their smartphones to the Ventra reader is planned for 2016. Customers would download a virtual Ventra card onto their phones to use the feature.

App developers from CTA, Pace and Metra will solicit feedback from customers to help finalize the process, according to the news release.

The Ventra payment system replaced the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus in summer 2013 to enable customers to use a single card while traveling through the Chicago area. The transition to Ventra was completed on July 1 of this year.

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Twitter: @paigeleskin