Prepaid fare payment at select bus stops
As part of our continued efforts to improve service and reliability for riders, we're piloting prepaid fare payment at several locations around town.
Prepaid bus fare pilots currently include:
Previous prepaid bus fare pilots included:
- Southbound #135 and #146 buses at Inner Drive/Belmont*
(6:30am–9:30am, weekdays, concluded October 2017)
- Southbound #29 & westbound #69 buses at the 69th Red Line station*
(3pm–6pm, weekdays, concluded October 2017)
- Westbound #19, #20, #60, #124 and #157 at Madison/Dearborn-State Loop Link Stop
(3pm-6:30pm, weekdays, concluded December 2016)
How it works
When prepaid boarding is in effect at these stops, you’ll no longer wait in line to pay your fare onboard the bus—instead, you'll pay your fare in advance of boarding so you can get on your bus and be on your way more quickly.
While prepaid boarding is in effect, riders will need to have purchased and paid fare in advance and will board buses from a designated "paid" area. The designated boarding area will be defined by fencing or markers/signage as well as mobile fare equipment. The area will also be staffed by designated CTA employees similar to train stations to help assist customers.
The setup at these stops during periods when prepaid boarding is in effect will be similar to how a CTA ‘L’ station works—before you board the bus, you’ll touch your farecard to enter a designated 'paid' area to wait for service to arrive. You can pay using fare value in a Ventra Transit Account on a Ventra card, a Ventra Ticket, or other valid fare media such as a contactless bankcard or smartphone with an NFC payment app. Once in the paid area, you'll be able to enter buses freely, increasing the speed and efficiency at the bus stop. When the bus arrives, just step on board! Note that when prepaid boarding at your stop is not in effect, you'll pay your fare on board the bus just like before.
The pilot is expected to provide customers with faster boarding, and reduce bus delays that occur from the high volume of customers during evening rush periods. Current boarding times during evening peak periods can take as long as 3–5 minutes due to heavy ridership and with buses coming every few minutes, backups and bunching can occur and lead to delays all along the route. Moving the fare payment off of the bus will speed boarding, moving buses through the terminal faster and reducing delays for every customer across the route.
Each new pilot is expected to run for at least a few months, after which we'll determine whether to conclude the pilot, extend it or make the service changes permanent based on analysis and customer feedback.
How will I pay my fare?
When you arrive at the bus stop, you’ll see signs guiding you to a designated fare collection area. Touch your Ventra Card, ticket, or other valid fare media on the Ventra reader, just as you do on the bus or at a train station turnstile. Then, enter the designated paid waiting area. When the bus arrives, just step on board!
When will I pre-pay my fare?
Prepaid fare payment will be in effect on weekdays during peak times (see times listed at toward top of this page). At all other times, pay your fare on board the bus.
What if I'm going the other way near this stop?
When riding buses at stops near the prepaid boarding location (but not the stop for where prepaid boarding is available), simply board and pay like you normally would on the bus.
I need to put money on my Ventra card before I can pay my fare—what should I do?
You can reload your Ventra Card anytime and instantly using the free Ventra App (available for download from the Apple app store or Google Play), at any Ventra vending machine (which are located in every 'L' station) or on the web at ventrachicago.com. You can also reload or purchase Ventra cards at retail locations throughout the city – Ventra retailers can be found at ventrachicago.com/retailers/locations.
I prefer to pay cash when I board the bus—how will I pay my fare?
Fare payment is faster and easier with a Ventra card, and only a Ventra Card can be used to pay for a ride and transfers. If you prefer to pay cash, tell the CTA employee on duty that you want to pay cash to board the bus. The employee will provide you with a special Ventra card and direct you to a nearby Ventra vending machine or Ventra retailer where you can load fare using cash. At the vending machine, load $2 or more on the Ventra card, depending on how many fares you want to be able to pay. You can then pay at the Ventra reader and proceed into the paid waiting area.
Where can I send my questions and comments about this change?
We always welcome your feedback! Please contact us with any questions or comments about prepaid fare payment, including cash fare payment procedures. You can reach us by phone at 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282) or by e-mail. You can also write us at CTA, 567 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661.