First-Ever Ventra App for Riding CTA, Metra and Pace Makes Strong Progress During Development Phase

September 16, 2015
CTA, Metra and Pace used valuable feedback from Smart Chicago Collaborative’s Civic User Testing Group’s road-testing of app to improve features, functionality ahead of fall app release
Buying Metra mobile tickets with your Ventra account funds or credit or debit card. Adding money to your Ventra account while standing at a CTA or Pace bus stop. Getting real-time train and bus arrival information for CTA, Metra and Pace.
And doing all of these with your smartphone with just one app: the Ventra App, the first multi-transit agency fare payment app of its kind in the nation.
The Ventra App will provide transit customers with a seamless, enjoyable “one-stop shopping” experience that essentially puts a Ventra vending machine and a Metra ticket vending machine in their pockets.
The CTA, Metra and Pace today provided an update on the app’s development. A key part of that development is its testing so far by hundreds of individuals, including members of the public and transit employees, to ultimately develop a best-in-class app that transit customers will love.
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.
“We are beyond pleased with how the CUT Group has helped us make the Ventra app better,” said Michael Gwinn, CTA Director of Fare Systems. “We asked them to not just kick the tires, but kick the tires hard, and they did. They came up with a number of really helpful observations and suggestions that we listened and responded to, enriching the Ventra app’s usefulness and experience for customers.”
“We knew all along that feedback from the testing phase would be crucial to the development of this app, and the feedback we received from the CUT Group was certainly invaluable,” said Lynnette Ciavarella, Senior Division Director, Strategic Capital Planning at Metra. “As a result of their input, we were able to fine-tune the app so that it will be much more useful and easy to navigate.”
“In order to get the best experience for our customers, we placed a heavy emphasis on testing from a diverse group of users,” said Pace Deputy Executive Director Mike Bolton. “We received great feedback from all of our testers, resulting in an app that we are excited to launch and that will make Ventra even more convenient to use.”About 25 individuals with the CUT Group who have experience with using apps and gauging functionality and the quality of the user’s experience were selected to test the app.
“We were happy to be a part of the development of the region’s first-ever transit app, which will change how hundreds of thousands of commuters travel each day,” said Smart Chicago Executive Director Daniel X. O’Neil. “Our testers gave a lot of suggestions for improvements to the Ventra app as well as noting what worked well, and we’re glad that that feedback could contribute meaningfully to the app as it nears release to the public.”
The group came back with a number of recommendations that CTA, Metra and Pace are in the process of making, including:
How-to: Added a small series of tutorial screens to introduce the basic parts of the app when it’s first opened after installation, as many modern apps include.
Password improvements: Made it easier to reset passwords to help infrequent users with accounts get signed into the app more easily; made password requirements more prominent in the account creation process; and added a “show password” button to reveal password in what were standard masked password fields.
“Back” button: Improved the “back” button on Android to make it easier to find and use.
Transit Tracker: Renamed the real-time arrival information feature for CTA, Metra and Pace to “Transit Tracker” instead of “Trip Tools” to better reflect what information is provided. A later phase of the app will offer integrated trip planning.
Transit Tracker functionality: Improvements to Transit Tracker include allowing customers choices on how stops are listed; more prominently displaying “Favorites” and “Nearby Stops" so users are more aware of these functions and can more easily find them; and refining the information display in the Metra tracker to make it more intuitive and useful for customers.
Easier navigation: Improved user experience to make navigation and functionality more intuitive (such as better description of autoload switch functionality, how to flip the start/end points in station-to-station Metra arrivals, and how to register additional Ventra Cards).
Easier to read: A number of cosmetic improvements are being made including font changes based on user preference.
Adding value: Replaced “sliders” used to select value when splitting a payment between multiple funding sources (such as a Ventra account and a personal credit card) and establishing autoload value amounts.
As with all feedback, the CTA, Metra and Pace will continue to accept and evaluate feedback throughout the apps development, implementation and lifecycle.
Some of the feedback CTA, Metra and Pace received from CUT Group testers:
Do you like the Ventra app?
Yes 92% (24)
No 8% (2)
Why or why not?
Here are the top reasons why testers liked the Ventra app
  • Easy to use
  • Metra functionality
  • Convenient
  • Good visual designs
Concerns expressed by testers included wireless connections, ability to use NFC-enabled phones on buses and train Ventra readers to board (which will come in a later phase of the Ventra App), and having phones charged while riding Metra.

Sample of feedback from testers:

“I added a 30 day pass to an existing transit account and it went very smoothly. I'm also REALLY, REALLY impressed with how split tenders for payments were implemented. It's really intuitive and I really like that feature.”
“It's a good, reliable app. One thing I noticed is that when you add value it appears instantly, versus the online site, where it usually doesn't update until you log off and log back in again, so that's a plus. I also like that Bus Tracker is built into the app, which saves time from having to search it on the internet.”
“Purchasing in general is easy. Multiple times, I've purchased a ticket while walking to the train. I love the ability to pay with my Ventra autoreloading balance.”
“I will ride Metra more often because of the app. I wouldn’t have usually considered it as an option.” (Note: Tester is a frequent CTA rider)
“Overall, I like the look and ease of using the website. I think that I would make the categories of ‘Transit value,’ ‘CTA & Pace passes’ and ‘Metra Mobile Tickets’ more bold or make the grey heading a little darker. The delineation between the categories needs to be clearer.” (Note: fonts were changed)
“Term [trip tools] is very misleading, it is actually a bus and train tracker. Trip Tools make me think of real time trip planner…” (Note: “Trip Tools” was changed to “Transit Tracker”)
"Actually easier than my other apps! And I think that may be because of simplicity and consistency on the screen and not use of a lot of different colors."
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More information

Smart Chicago Collaborative’s full report: http://www.smartchicagocollaborative.org/cutgroup-17-ventra-transit-app

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