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 Pacific 2-3-1
 
Will we ever see a universal plastic (or smartphone) fare-payment method for all Chicagoland commuter & transit?

The two sister RTA train operators both use standard gauge railroad track, but one gets the impression that they would change even that, if they could.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/loca ... 5498.story" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by justalurker66
 
Metra is not the same as CTA, PACE and CTA Rail. While the MED ran with similar "paid area" vs "unpaid area" operation until the fare gates were removed the operation was more like WMATA's with distance based fares than CTA's flat fare plus transfers. Metra's ticket system where passengers pay or prove payment after the train is underway and displays proof of payment at their seat isn't done on CTA.

I do not doubt that Metra will eventually accept the Ventra media ... but it seems that CTA chose a system that worked well for the way they collect fares and ignored the way Metra collects fares. There is time to sort out the differences and make Ventra work on Metra (even if it is something as simple as accepting Ventra as payment for traditional Metra tickets). Perhaps the money saved on the extreme low bidder consultant can be put to use buying the technology needed to make it happen.
  by Tadman
 
I think ventra is an interesting concept, but a few other concepts could've added more revenue, faster. Peak CTA fares or two-zone CTA fares would go a long way to spreading out usage and maximizing revenue from those that just have to go downtown during the height of rush hour. Also, if you ride 20 miles, shouldn't you pay more than the guy who rides two miles? I understand that the distance-based system at WMATA is pretty complex, but a few smaller systems use a 2-zone system wherein one crosses a line of demarcation and gets charged a bit more. At CTA it could be as simple as charging $2 extra for everyone boarding 5+miles from downtown. I say $2 because there's no way to discriminate between long-distance and short-distance riders on the return leg from downtown, and most passengers ride RT.
  by justalurker66
 
Tadman wrote:At CTA it could be as simple as charging $2 extra for everyone boarding 5+miles from downtown. I say $2 because there's no way to discriminate between long-distance and short-distance riders on the return leg from downtown, and most passengers ride RT.
Then you are penalizing people who ride outside of the line of demarcation. Tap in/tap out gives a more accurate report of usage ... and allows people to be charged accordingly. While I would not want a complicated system the desire to move to a reusable farecard instead of a one ride ticket makes it easier to have tap in/tap out pricing such as WMATA. One could even have flexible zones where "five miles" costs the same wherever the travel occurs instead of charging for two zones of travel simply because a patron travels between two neighboring stations on the opposite side of a fixed line.
  by Tadman
 
Then you are penalizing people who ride outside of the line of demarcation.
I'm not sure how that's a penalty. Housing is much cheaper as you go farther away from downtown. Anybody who drives downtown from Rosemont or Rogers Park pays twice as much for gas, why shouldn't the L riders in that area pay double fare? By your logic, we're penalizing Rosemont drivers for driving twice as far.

It's not a penalty, it's the cost of doing business.
  by ExCon90
 
Justalurker's post said "people who ride (not live) outside the line ..." A passenger riding between two stations entirely outside the inner zone would be charged as if he were riding to the Loop. Since he is occupying a seat that will no doubt be occupied again after he gets off (or was occupied and vacated before he got on), efforts should be made to attract this rider, who essentially adds revenue but not cost. (SEPTA is planning to do something similarly discouraging to outlying riders on a few lines with their July fare increase.)
  by tuna
 
First of all, to address the original topic, I think that Ventra is 100% compatible with Metra's zone fare system. It could be a big improvement, actually. I'm a former UP North Line metra commuter and a current CTA brown/purple commuter so I understand how their fares are collected in practice. The way that Ventra works with Metra and actually decreases their costs and improves their productivity (assuming they are competent and not corrupt and ineffectual, which is a big assumption), is that each conductor would be given a mobile cellular-internet enabled Ventra card reader. If they were really smart they'd use an off-the-shelf smartphone like an iPhone or Android as the base and then build their own Ventra card reader peripheral. The conductors would use this to confirm riders' monthly passes (which is how the vast majority of commuters pay their fare). They could also input onto the touch screen to program in fares to add to riders' Ventra cards when they purchase fares aboard. The conductor would specify that they are either collecting the passenger's cash or they could even slide credit cards using a smartphone card reader peripheral like Square.

Secondly to address discussion of of the CTA's fare system...
justalurker66 wrote:
Tadman wrote:At CTA it could be as simple as charging $2 extra for everyone boarding 5+miles from downtown. I say $2 because there's no way to discriminate between long-distance and short-distance riders on the return leg from downtown, and most passengers ride RT.
Then you are penalizing people who ride outside of the line of demarcation. Tap in/tap out gives a more accurate report of usage ... and allows people to be charged accordingly. While I would not want a complicated system the desire to move to a reusable farecard instead of a one ride ticket makes it easier to have tap in/tap out pricing such as WMATA. One could even have flexible zones where "five miles" costs the same wherever the travel occurs instead of charging for two zones of travel simply because a patron travels between two neighboring stations on the opposite side of a fixed line.
The boundaries are always going to be arbitrary. Even if you moved from fixed zone to your idea for flexible zones, it would still be arbitrary that the worker who lives 4.0 miles from the office pays $2 more than the person who lives 3.9 miles away (for example). You could also make sign-in/sign-out fares much more granular, so that the person who travels 3.9 miles pays a few cents more than the person who travels 3.8 miles but a few cents less than the person who travels 4.0 miles, but then you're also making the fares less predictable and you're adding the bottleneck of having to scan your card at a terminal on the way out of the station, not just on the way in.

In Chicago, forget flat fare vs zone vs distance. No matter what your perspective on that issue, the clear fact is that the CTA is grossly undercharging for transport. $2 to $2.25 is way too cheap for all but the shortest rides during the slowest periods. The fact that people can ride from Skokie to the loop for $2.25, most of the way on an express service that skipping tens of stops and thousands of people waiting for trains, is plain stupid. A monthly loop parking space is $275+. Its not like these people are all going to switch to cars if you increase fares. I predict that we are going to see a fare hike soon, though. They signaled it when they increased the monthly passes to $100 a few months ago. Even if you commute back and forth every day, the $100 monthly pass currently does not make sense vs $2.25 el fare. Seriously, (21 days)x(2 ways)x($2.25)=$94.50. So I am sure that a fare hike to ~$2.75 is already in the works.

My favorite fare systems as a rider and as an armchair designer are the kinds where there are no barriers (turnstiles, gates, etc) between the public and the transport, you just get on and are responsible for holding proof of a valid fare. This is arguably the cheapest fare system to regulate since those card scanners and turnstiles are surprisingly expensive to operate, it doesn't create the bottlenecks that turnstiles can during periods of heavy utilization, and its more compatible with bus and tram transport where there isn't as much infrastructure at each stop. The fact that riders have to scan their CTA cards as they board buses is an unbelievable waste of time. Everyone should be able to walk on as quickly as possible so that the bus can keep moving. I don't see that happening in Chicago any time soon though. Politicians would be too worried about the political fallout when the "urban poor" try to walk on without paying and then get hit with $100+ fines. Better to have physical gates to save them from themselves, the Chicago politicians would reason :wink: .
  by CHTT1
 
The whole "no fares checked" thing hasn't worked very well in Los Angeles where fare gates are being installed on the Metro rail lines. Who would pay for a ticket when there's little or no chance of being caught by the occasional inspector? And that would include a whole of people evading fares, not just the "urban poor" you're ranting about.
  by Tadman
 
Pacific 2-3-1 wrote:The two sister RTA train operators both use standard gauge railroad track, but one gets the impression that they would change even that, if they could.
Sad but very true. I get the Metra is the suburban/republican-dominated system, and CTA is the city/democrat-dominated system, but it would behoove both parties and constituencies to play nice. There are plenty of people that would like to live in the city and work in the burbs (see Kennedy Expy reverse commute - AWFUL!!!) and Metra/CTA could get them there. But they barely do, if at all.
  by byte
 
The possibility exists that the organizational structure of what we know as "Metra" could change very drastically as a result of the recent happenings with the board: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/2234 ... brown.html (warning: topic drift possibly ahead)
George Ranney Jr., a wonk’s wonk as president and CEO of the civic group Metropolis Strategies and its forerunner, Metropolis 2020, has long advocated putting an end to that way of doing business.

As co-chairman of Gov. Pat Quinn’s public transit task force, which met for the first time Tuesday, Ranney may finally be in a position to help put his philosophies into practice in an area in which he admits he has been previously frustrated.

It’s Ranney’s group that is pushing the idea of eliminating the RTA and assigning its duties to CMAP, which it contends is a much more effectively-run organization. The change could save $17 million a year by eliminating duplication of responsibilities, Metropolis Strategies asserts.

Ranney has also recommended consolidating Metra and PACE, starting by eliminating the rail transit board and turning over its duties to a modified PACE board.
  by CHTT1
 
byte wrote:The possibility exists that the organizational structure of what we know as "Metra" could change very drastically as a result of the recent happenings with the board: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/2234 ... brown.html (warning: topic drift possibly ahead)
George Ranney Jr., a wonk’s wonk as president and CEO of the civic group Metropolis Strategies and its forerunner, Metropolis 2020, has long advocated putting an end to that way of doing business.

As co-chairman of Gov. Pat Quinn’s public transit task force, which met for the first time Tuesday, Ranney may finally be in a position to help put his philosophies into practice in an area in which he admits he has been previously frustrated.

It’s Ranney’s group that is pushing the idea of eliminating the RTA and assigning its duties to CMAP, which it contends is a much more effectively-run organization. The change could save $17 million a year by eliminating duplication of responsibilities, Metropolis Strategies asserts.

Ranney has also recommended consolidating Metra and PACE, starting by eliminating the rail transit board and turning over its duties to a modified PACE board.
That's what we need a bunch of suburban mayors running things!!!
  by lstone19
 
I don't know that I'd call that "baby steps" since other than Metra being the distributor, it will have nothing to do with Metra and is only for travel on CTA and Pace (essentially a discounted monthly pass sold in conjunction with a Metra monthly which will still be a normal flash pass).
If anything, this is a step back for the rider as based on what Metra has posted, rather than being for a specific calendar month, it will be a 30-day pass valid 30 days from first use. Inerestingly, Metra has said on their web site that they will be used as flash passes on the 31st of a month since they will not work in the normal manner (assuming activated on the 1st). And you get a new card each month.
In addition, if a rider inadvertently uses it prior to the 1st of the month it's is supposed to be for, it will start the 30-day clock immediately. So all-in-all, a step back that shows that Ventra is not even as capable as the old mag-stripe/Chicago Card system.
  by justalurker66
 
Easy solution ... make the card good for 31 consecutive days ... maybe even 32. Most purchasers buy it every month anyways.