Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by lstone19
I don't disagree with you Tad despite what I said earlier. What's not clear is what is envisioned with this. For us regular Metra riders with monthlys, they're very convenient although low-tech and except for the CTA Link-Up stickers, standalone. If they're talking something to consolidate all fare media (including monthlys) into some combination media, it's complicated. Considering how I've seen times trainmen just barely get through a crowded train just looking at monthlys, I can't imagine a system that required every monthly to be scanned on-board every day to be workable. OTOH, if they're just talking about the ability to use a pay-per-ride stored value card across all three agencies but in addition to current fare media, then it's much more doable.
As I would envision it, in addition to current monthlys, ten-rides, one-ways, and cash, trainmen would also carry a portable reader and a passenger could pay on-board with their card. And similar to how cash is handled, trainman asks destination and deducts the appropriate fare. Is there an opportunity to cheat? Yes but it's the same opportunity that exists today. You probably need to add a seat check or other paper receipt to prove the fare was already deducted but that would be about it.
Speaking of seat checks (and I know this is an aside here), as someone who grew up in the East where seat checks are prevalent, I am still amazed that seat checks are not used here and trainmen just try to remember who they haven't collected from.
  by Milwaukee_F40C
I think the payment discussion deserves its own topic.

The best way to work CTA (or all Chicago transit) cards in to Metra is just to use them as an additional form of payment, where the passenger still receives a traditional ticket as a receipt that they keep with them on the train. It just means clerks and conductors have to slide something else in addition to the credit cards that are now accepted. If it is a monthly pass kind of thing that enables transfers to the other systems, all the conductor needs to do is see the current valid pass, just like regular Metra monthly passes. I don't want anything to change for cash paying passengers over this. Also, I wasn't aware that I am "supposed" to tell a conductor that I changed seats, having my ticket is good enough for me.
  by lstone19
Regarding changing seats, the lack of seat checks makes it tough, particularly with ten rides (although the problem can exist with any pay per ride media). One day, I was meeting a co-worker on a train. Once on, we moved to the shady side of the train. Trainman came through and since he was remembering seats occupied, not faces, he wanted a ticket from her. She said she moved but he said he didn't remember her. I stepped in at this point and explained unique punches to her and that all he wanted to see was that his punch was the last one on the ticket. So all was well.
And without seat checks, all punches in a ticket do is prove that trainman was the one who punched it. But on that trip? Even for a ticket dated the same day, it could have been punched by that trainman on an earlier run. If I take my regular trains, I have the same crew both ways. So in a month where I'm using ten-rides (due to vacation and not working enough days to make a monthly worth it), it's entirely possible for me to have a ten-ride with ten identical punches.
And I agree, Metra fare media deserves its topic.
  by Milwaukee_F40C
I saw a BNSF conductor use seat checks last summer. The slight differences from my normal MILW and UP rides were interesting.
I always ride with either a single ticket or a weekend pass, and to me they are pretty much a seat check as long as they have the applicable valid punch symbol, zones, and or date. I almost never change seats, but it seems like some conductors aren't great with the remembering seats method nonetheless. Some of them are even picky about which side of the ticket holder the tickets are in, thing is a lot of them are bent on at least one side so the tickets may fall out.
  by sipes23
CHTT1 wrote: I agree. I think the need for a uniform fare system is largely overstated.
I'd agree. I make a once a week trip to the city on a Metra/CTA combo. It is not a problem to maintain two separate cards—a ten ride and a CTA card. Even if I did this daily, who cares? It's not even sort of difficult.
  by justalurker66
lstone19 wrote:Metra Electric's gates were workable because it's a completely grade-separated system so platforms could be made into "paid" areas. That won't work on the other lines without major capital projects.
Considering the removal of station houses along the MED there would need to be a lot of restoration work ... or closed stations.
CHTT1 wrote:I agree. I think the need for a uniform fare system is largely overstated.
Uniform payment I don't see a problem with, but I don't see Metra operating without some form of ticket that the passenger must carry.

Perhaps Metra could offer an annual "smart card" ticket that would charge each month at the monthly zone rate and allow people to "continue their ride" when they get to CTA/PACE either by monthly subscription or individual fares with transfers. A monthly Metra card might work as well but that would mean replacing the card stock every month instead of every year. It needs to be something recognizable by the conductors as a valid monthly/annual pass for that period.

Perhaps a Chicago Card with a plastic cover that a paper Metra monthly ticket could be slipped inside of?

It will be interesting to see what they come up with.
  by byte
A punchable (for Metra conductors) magnetic card (for putting into CTA turnstiles) might be part of the solution, although probably not the whole thing. Best thing might be to put a ticket vending machine at each (Metra) station which will deduct money off your CTA transit card and print a Metra ticket in return.