CTA, Metra and Pace Release New Ventra App to the Public

November 19, 2015

First-of-its-kind transit app now available for free download on Android and iOS mobile devices

The Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace today launched the new Ventra App, making the free app now available for download and use on Apple and Android smartphone and tablet devices via www.ventrachicago.com, the App Store and Google Play.

The Ventra App is the first of its kind to allow customers to pay for rides on all three transit systems – CTA, Metra and Pace – from their mobile devices, transforming the way people across Chicago take transit each day. Developed jointly by CTA, Metra and Pace, and funded by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)’s Innovation, Coordination, and Enhancement (ICE) program, the app provides riders with a “one-stop shopping” experience that essentially puts both a Ventra vending machine and a Metra ticket vending machine in customers’ pockets.

The app offers customers a wide range of functionality – including some never before available on phones – including account management, loading of transit value/passes, account notifications and integrated mobile ticketing on Metra. It also provides access to real-time transit tracker information for CTA, Metra and Pace all in one place. Future phases will offer additional services and conveniences.

“CTA, Metra and Pace have worked together closely to bring this app to life and we’re very pleased with the result,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. “With this new app, customers for the first time ever have access to a one-stop shopping experience for transportation across the Chicago area through their mobile devices. As customers use the app, we look forward to hearing about their experiences, which will shape updates to the app going forward.” 

The Ventra App allows Metra customers who use a smartphone to buy any type of Metra ticket with a credit or debit card or a Ventra account. The Metra mobile ticket is stored on the smartphone and customers can activate it when boarding the train and display it on the phone’s screen when the train conductor checks for tickets. If a Metra customer wishes to create a Ventra account in the app, they can buy Metra mobile tickets more quickly and recover them if the phone is lost, stolen, damaged or replaced.

Extensive app testing

The transit agencies determined the first version of the Ventra App was ready for public launch now after several months of exhaustive testing by more than 700 individuals who ride CTA, Metra and Pace. Among the testers were dozens who tried out the app as part of the Smart Chicago Collaborative’s Civic User Testing Group, a highly regarded program that maintains a pool of Chicago residents to road-test new apps under development, as well as customers with disabilities to make sure the app is accessible to customers with visual disabilities.

“We have created a truly regional app that will be incredibly handy not only for Metra’s customers but also for customers of CTA and Pace,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “With this app, our customers will be able to quickly and easily buy any kind of Metra ticket, anytime and anywhere.”

“In the past, providing the infrastructure to sell Pace passes throughout our six-county service area was nearly impossible, but by creating the ability to add passes and transit value to one’s Ventra account online, by phone, a greatly expanded suburban retail network, new Ventra vending machines and now the Ventra App, we’re providing better access than ever before to money-saving passes,” said Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross. “We’re excited about the many conveniences that the Ventra App features for customers, particularly the ability to quickly and easily buy fares and passes for all three service boards in one place.”

“The RTA is a proud partner in the launch of this app, as it takes yet another step forward in providing seamless transit services throughout our region,” said Leanne Redden, RTA Executive Director. “We provided funding for development of this app and we look forward to hearing of its success now that it’s being rolled out.”   

Convenience of multiple functions

After downloading the app, customers can use Ventra account funds, pre-tax transit benefits provided by employers and/or credit and debit cards to purchase transit to ride CTA, Metra and Pace. The initial version available today allows customers to:

  • Add transit value and purchase multi-day unlimited ride passes to ride CTA and Pace
  • Buy Metra mobile tickets with personal bank cards or using a registered Ventra Card’s transit value or transit benefit value balance – eliminating the need to purchase paper tickets from Metra ticket windows or vending machines, or from conductors on the train
  • Set up autoload with a bank account or credit card to automatically replenish Ventra account funds
  • Check transit value balance/see passes and expiration dates in their account
  • See transit purchase and travel history
  • Manage accounts anywhere
  • Get account notifications and alerts for account balance, low balance and expiring passes
  • Get transit tracker information for CTA, Metra and Pace by rail station and bus stop


More enhancements to come

Later phases planned for 2016 will provide additional account management features (e.g. card ordering, replacing a lost/stolen card) and a door-to-door trip planner with service information for CTA, Metra and Pace that allows customers to navigate the region from door to door using all three transit systems.

Also in a later phase, the app will allow customers to download a virtual Ventra card onto their Near Field Communication-compatible mobile devices, which will allow them to access their Ventra transit accounts to pay for rides on CTA trains and CTA and Pace buses directly from the Ventra App by touching the phone or device to a Ventra reader.

In the future, the CTA, Metra and Pace also intend to explore offering advertising on the app, which could include customized promotional content that customers would voluntarily select to receive – similar to other apps. Any in-app advertising or promotional functionality would only be launched with the approval of CTA, Metra and Pace consistent with agency policies including advertising guidelines.

Getting started

To fully use all of the functions of the Ventra app, customers will need to have a Ventra online account and have their Ventra cards registered with a user name and password.

Customers can easily create an account and register the card in their wallet, if they haven't already, or online at ventrachicago.com.

If they’re not sure if they have an account, they can check at ventrachicago.com by entering their email address after clicking “Forgot username” or by contacting Ventra Customer Service. Customers who do not wish to create an account username and password can still use the app to buy Metra tickets, check the balance of their card and view real-time transit tracker info.

Learn more about Ventra at ventrachicago.com. Customers can also interact with Ventra via Twitter (@VentraChicago) and on Ventra Chicago’s Facebook page. Information is also available on CTA, Metra and Pace websites at www.transitchicago.commetrarail.com and www.pacebus.com.

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