August 1, 2001

At the Chicago Transit Board meeting today, CTA staff laid out plans to expand the CTA Smart Card program. Smart Cards are plastic cards with an embedded microchip that can be read by a panel on rail turnstiles and bus fareboxes. They offer customers the added convenience of ?touch and go? access. Smart Cards are also more durable than Transit Cards and customers do not lose remaining value if their cards are lost.

Expansion plans call for 300,000 Smart Cards to be distributed in addition to the more than 3,500 already in circulation due to the pilot program. The CTA hopes to begin distribution of the cards early next year through a variety of means such as mail, internet and direct to employers.

?We believe Smart Cards will be the preferred fare option of the future and the CTA wants to expand this technology to more of our customers. The ?touch and go? convenience of the cards makes boarding our buses and trains quicker for our customers," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett.

As the CTA monitors the popularity of the program and streamlines distribution and customer service, additional cards above and beyond the initial 300,000 may be distributed. The Smart Card pilot program started last August 1st and has been popular with 93% percent of the 3,547 customers participating in the pilot, according to a survey taken last December.

If a Smart Card is lost, it can be replaced with its value intact following an audit and confirmation by CTA personnel. Maintenance costs are lower with Smart Cards than with current Transit Cards because there are no moving parts in Smart Card readers.

The cost of the 300,000 new cards will be $1.8 million, most of which the CTA will recoup through the sale of Smart Cards which will cost customers $5.00 per card.

CTA President Frank Kruesi said, 'smart Cards last longer than our current magnetic strip Transit Cards. They also offer our customers easier access and reliability while paying their fares. Our current automated fare collection system is capable of including Smart Card technology without the expense of purchasing new fare collection equipment."

CTA staff said they will continue to explore other applications for the Smart Card and will consider partnerships with major financial institutions, corporations and businesses.

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