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Ventra App to Speed Up Chicago Commute

The new smartphone app will allow passengers to speed through lines by letting them pay for fare and tickets in the palm of their hand.

(TNS) -- Starting next week, a long-awaited Ventra app will allow transit users to use their mobile devices to pay for fares and passes and, in Metra’s case, use them as tickets.

While hardly the “universal” fare card that transportation experts have been urging for years, the free app represents perhaps the most significant technological step Chicago transit users have seen since the rollout of the Ventra card in 2013.

It also marks the advent of paperless ticketing for Metra’s 150,000 daily riders.

Metra, CTA, Pace and Regional Transportation Authority officials announced Friday morning that transit users will be able to download the app starting Thursday.

“This is truly moving us into the 21st century,” Metra Executive Director Don Orseno said as throngs of rush-hour passengers passed by at Millennium Station.

The app will be available for iOS and Android phones, laptops and tablets. Metra customers will still be able to buy the traditional paper monthly passes and tickets.

The app will enable customers to use their iPhone or Android phones or mobile devices to pay for rides using credit or debit cards on all three Chicago-area transit systems, check account balances, and receive real-time travel and service information.

According to the latest version made available to testers, users can add money to their Ventra accounts in increments from $5 to $100. CTA and Pace riders can purchase one-, three-, seven- and 30-day passes. Metra riders can buy single tickets, 10-ride tickets or monthly passes.

The app was developed by Cubic Transportation Systems Chicago Inc. under a $2.5 million contract split among the CTA, Metra and Pace. Cubic created the Ventra fare card for the CTA and Pace.

The app’s rollout had been delayed for months while several hundred transit agency employees and a select group of volunteers worked out the bugs that accompany new software. Two Tribune reporters were among those who tested the app.

The latest version of the app was made available to testers Thursday evening. Another update last week listed several glitches that had been fixed.

"We promised that we would test, test and test the app some more until it met our high standards and was an excellent product for our customers," a CTA spokeswoman said in September.

©2015 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.