The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Metra Jumping On The Ventra Train

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 18, 2013 4:00PM

Metra is finally coming around to the idea of an open fare system and is working out the details use Ventra, the system currently being rolled out by CTA and Pace.

Metra deputy executive director for administration Alex Wiggins told The Daily Herald “we are jumping on board with Ventra” and staff at the beleaguered rail agency are working out the kinks to get in line with CTA and Pace on using the service.

The Regional Transportation Authority faces a 2015 deadline to implement an open fare system where passengers can use the same payment system to ride CTA, Metra and Pace. CTA and Pace were quick to embrace Ventra and stuck with the program after critics complained about how riders could also use it as a prepaid debit card. Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said last September they wanted to make sure whatever open fare program they adopted “works best for Metra” while also working for CTA and Pace, keeping in line with their ability to make simple decisions convoluted.

Case in point: one of the details Metra needs to solve to launch Ventra is finding hand-held devices for conductors to use that will accept Ventra and credit cards. Riders may currently urchase fares and passes on Metra's website, but why conductors don’t have devices that accept credit cards already is a mystery. Still, the news that Metra is finally recognizing they need to do something about an open fare system was good news for the agency, which has had five board members including chairman Brad O’Halloran resign in the weeks since the June buyout of ex-CEO Alex Clifford’s contract and the revelation of a memo Clifford wrote detailing patronage hiring allegations. Metra’s board met Friday with its six remaining members.