CTA, Metra, Pace debut new Ventra app

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Riley Mundt, 21, of Crystal Lake, uses Metra to get to classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago. | Tina Sfondeles/Sun-Times

The days of waiting in a winding line to use a Ventra machine or paying a fee for buying a Metra ticket aboard a train are mostly over.

The CTA, Metra and Pace on Thursday announced a new free Ventra app that lets commuters buy tickets, keep track of passes and plan trips. The app is available for Apple and Android devices.

For Metra riders, the app turns their cellphone into a paperless ticket. The CTA plans to add that feature for bus and train riders.

The Ventra app was downloaded 20,000 times before the evening rush Thursday, the CTA said. More than 1,300 Metra orders were completed via the app, representing over 9,600 Metra rides which the CTA is calling a “strong response.”

There were also more than 5,000 Ventra accounts created via the app, including 1,200 accounts created between 8 and 9 a.m. Thursday.

It’s the first time Metra riders will get a paperless option to pay for rides.

Metra, CTA and Pace riders were emailed information about the app on Thursday morning. But many commuters at the Ogilvie Transportation Center on Thursday afternoon said they hadn’t yet downloaded the app.

Riley Mundt takes the train from Crystal Lake to get to classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She’s looking forward to having her monthly pass on her phone.

“All my friends keep telling me to [download] it. They tell me it’s really cool,” said Mundt, 21. “I think it will be helpful, especially because I’ve done that before where you leave your monthly [behind] and you have to buy a whole new one. And then it’s another $235.”

Frank Bonifacic commutes to Chicago from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He, too, received information about the app Thursday morning. “I probably will download it,” he said.

“I use apps for parking at my train station, and this is an app that I’ll likely use,” said Bonifacic, 73. “I never get caught needing a ticket on the train. That’s a $3 charge. But this will help me in case I do.”

CTA and Pace riders will be able to buy one-, three-, seven- and 30-day passes, while Metra riders can buy one-way tickets, 10-ride tickets or monthly passes.

There were some “small issues” that popped up on Thursday, which were expected given that a broader audience is using the app compared to the test group which consisted of 700 CTA, Pace and Metra riders, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.

“One issue affected a small number of customers’ abilities to login to the app, which was related to older operating systems on those users’ phones,” Chase said. “We immediately began troubleshooting and believe we have the issue quickly resolved. We have reached out to customers who said they were affected by this to make sure of that.”

On day one, the app brought in mostly cheers on Twitter.

“I’m so happy we FINALLY got a ventra/metra/app,” one user tweeted, using a praying hands emoticon.

Others voiced frustration, saying they encountered “server errors” but were contacted by Ventra employees to get help.

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