Chicago transit: You can pay your own way

The CTA plans to shift to an open fare payment system by 2014

Transportation Management News Transportation Nation November 22, 2011
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The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is set to adopt an open fare payment system that will allow riders to pay with credit cards, debit cards, prepaid card or even cell phones, according to Transportation Nation.

 

The system will be put into action by 2014 and aims to be contactless; it can be described as “tap and go” or “wave and pay.” The CTA chose Cubic Transportation Systems, which manages the fare collection systems of many transit agencies, including New York, San Francisco and Brisbane, Australia, to implement the system. The $454 million, 12-year contract was approved by the CTA board last week.

 

The new system will do away with the “swipe”-style magnetic-stripe cards currently used for fare payments.

 

Dave Lapczysnki, Cubic’s senior vice president for services, says the goal “is to make it more convenient for the average transit rider.” He added that the biggest improvement will be expansion of the retail side of the system.

 

At this time, there are 700 locations in Chicago where riders can purchase prepaid fare cards. Cubic says that number will increase to 2,000 under the terms of the contract.

Eric Reese, CTA’s general manager for business development, said it was important to grow the retail operation even while expanding fare payment options. “We’re trying to make it more convenient for more riders to access the fare systems should they not have a personal credit or debit card,” he said.

 

Lapczysnki said a significant percentage of transit riders do not have credit cards. And while the rail system will move to a 100% contactless fare collection system, cash fares will still be accepted on buses.

 

The CTA estimates the new system will save $5 million a year and take the authority from the banking business: according to the CTA’s press release, the new system will “shift the risks associated with fare collection to the contractor, including credit/debit card processing fees, increased operating expenses and security breaches.”

 

The CTA said it plans to conduct a marketing campaign six to twelve months in advance of the system changeover to prepare the public.

 

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