Metra’s Feb. 1 fare increases will not include a boost in the penalty for buying a ticket on board, officials said Friday.
The plan to increase the onboard purchase surcharge from $3 to $5 is being postponed until mobile ticketing is unveiled systemwide later this year, probably May at the earliest, officials said.
The postponement came after Elmhurst Ald. Scott Levin denounced a $5 onboard penalty at Metra’s January board meeting as “bad policy,” especially to riders who merely forget their monthly pass or a mom who boards with three kids.
In response, Metra board member Brian Reaves of the south suburbs proposed at least waiting to increase the surcharge until Metra launches mobile ticketing. Staff agreed to look into that idea and announced their decision Friday.
Mobile ticketing will allow riders to pay their fares on board a train using their smartphones and a credit card, debit card or Ventra account.
It will be one function of a regional app being developed in conjunction with the CTA and Pace by Cubic Transportation, which operates the Ventra payment system for the CTA and Pace.
The app for Apple and Android smartphones also will allow users to add transit value and load passes onto their Ventra cards, check their Ventra balances and receive real-time account alerts.
Metra said the app will be tested in coming weeks and debut systemwide in late spring or early summer.
Metra noted that its printed information about the Feb. 1 fare changes include an increase in the onboard ticket penalty from $3 to $5, but rather than go through the expense of reprinting such materials, it merely will not enforce the penalty until after systemwide mobile ticketing debuts.
The increased onboard penalty was not intended to boost revenue but rather to discourage riders from buying tickets on board when ticket agents or vending machines are present at stations, Metra CEO Don Orseno said. Such cash purchases divert conductors from their primary job of overseeing their train, he said.
In addition, it costs Metra money to secure and process on-board cash, Metra Chairman Martin Oberman has noted. Metra would like to get to the day when no tickets are purchased on board in cash, Oberman has said.
Other changes starting Feb. 1 include an average 10.8 percent increase in fares; a rise in the price of a weekend pass, from $7 to $8; restoration of offering a 10-ride ticket for the price of nine rides; restoration of the grace period on monthly tickets to make them valid until noon on the first business day of the following month, and allowing one-way tickets to be good for 90 days, instead of 14.