Today’s Headlines

  • CTA and Pace Plan to Unveil Ventra Mobile Ticketing App Today (Tribune)
  • Other Outlets Look at Active Trans’ Safe Crossings Campaign (Tribune, Crain’s, DNA)
  • Emanuel Plans to Double the Number of Officers Trained to Work as Bike Cops (DNA)
  • Reilly, Hotel Association Prez Gripe About Proposed Garage Parking Tax Hike (Sun-Times)
  • Railroad Merger Could Help Expedite Freight Through Chicago (Crain’s)
  • Courage Campaign Working on Ads to Fight Sexual Harassment on the CTA (DNA)
  • After a Sexual Assault on Sauganash Trail, Laurino Leading Bike Tour of the Path (DNA)
  • Fioretti Calls for Freeze on Red Light Cams, But City’s Not Installing Them (Expired Meter)
  • Complaints About Rude CTA Bus Drivers Are on the Rise (RedEye)
  • Yellow Line Service Was Temporarily Suspended Due to Switching Problems (Tribune)
  • Wilmette Hopes Metra Cafe Run by Local Music Venue Will Jazz Up Commutes (Tribune)
  • People Who Saw Divvy Rider on Ryan Were Kinder Than Those Who Saw One on LSD

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Ventra app: CTA is pitching in $1.7 million and Metra and Pace are contributing $800,000. And people used to think app-making is cheap…

    The mobile app will be rolled out in phases, starting in the first half of 2015. The first phase will allow users to:
    1. Add transit value and passes
    2. Check account balances
    3. Manage funding sources
    4. View transaction history
    5. Sign up for customizable account notifications and alerts for account balance, low balance, expiring passes
    6. Use Metra mobile ticketing, using a Ventra account or personal credit/debit card. This will be visual proof of payment—showing a ticket/pass on a mobile screen instead of presenting a paper ticket/pass to a Metra conductor.

    I thought “open fare” removed the necessity to make such an app, meaning people could rely on the Ventra website to add passes, and use them with Google Wallet and Apple Pay.

  • duppie

    The first 5 items can already be done on a smartphone, by using your browser and logging in to
    Item 6, I couldn’t care less. I get so many notifications already that effectively I ignore them all.
    Item 7 appears to be only true benefit of the app. But only if I can buy 10-rides using my phone

  • I was going to say the exact same thing. What is the reason for developing this app? I’m not seeing a compelling use case that isn’t already being handled by their website or competitive (and free) mobile apps.

  • Mike C

    Is the Ventra app going to allow riders tap-and-go to pay for CTA fares if their phone has NFC? There is very little value added for CTA users if it won’t since most of the app’s features already can be done via a mobile web browser as you mentioned.

  • Fred

    Metra mobile ticketing will be quite convenient for me. I don’t ride Metra very often, but when I do it is usually right after work. Buying a single ride ticket at 5p on a weekday takes a half hour, so I usually run over to the station at lunch and buy a ticket so I can get right on the train during the rush. It would nice to be able to just buy my ticket on my phone and avoid the extra trip to the station. This will potentially save people money by buying a ticket while on the train waiting for the conductor rather than paying the $3 on train fee.

  • Notifications already come in the form of emails. I got an email last week saying my auto-pay couldn’t top-up. Thanks, don’t need an app for that!

  • I forgot to mention there’s a $15,700 monthly maintenance fee for the app. That’s so cr-app-y.

  • Kevin M

    Very disappointing to see these agencies throwing big money at this limited-benefit mobile app while not doing anything to make progress on a universal fare card. A lot of transit users do not have smart phone apps.

  • Fred

    You won’t need an app for this if the promised Ventra-Account-on-Credit-Card functionality is ever finally implemented.
    Edit: finally FULLY implemented.

  • Ditto.

  • Currently people with NFC smartphones, and contactless cards, can pay for full-price fares (no transfers) without any special app (just the one built into their phone, like Google Wallet).

    Those with contactless cards can walk up to any Ventra Vending Machine (or retail location) and add transit value and passes to their contactless card in order to receive the discounted transfer, or use an unlimited ride pass. You can’t yet register this contactless card on the Ventra website, which would allow you to load value and passes online. (I don’t think this applies to NFC smartphone users yet).

  • Mike C

    You can’t currently pay from your Ventra account via your phone, right? Will the Ventra app allow it. I’m aware being able to use Google Wallet, etc. to pay for single full fares (no transfers or passes).

  • ohsweetnothing

    Love the bike cop idea, although I wonder what the FOP/2nd City Cop types think.

    I remember reading something a few years back on that blog (back when I had the stomach to read it from time to time) to the effect of “asking any cop to get out of his car and interact with people in ‘those communities’ is a death wish”

  • cjlane

    “wonder what the FOP/2nd City Cop types think”

    To the extent that it’s Rahm’s idea, they hate it. Rahm could perform policing miracles, triple their pay, fully fund the pensions out of thin air, and quadruple CPD’s headcount, and they’d still find a way to hate it.

  • Erik Swedlund

    Why buy a 10-ride? There’s no longer a discount. With the app, buy a single fare each time on the train while you’re waiting for the conductor to come by–there’s no time overhead of pre-buying from an agent or machine at the station.
    Edit: you’ll also be able to buy a Metra ticket with the mobile website, so the app doesn’t win there, either.

  • Fred

    The upcoming fare increase plan announced recently reinstates the 10-for-9 discount starting next February.

  • Erik Swedlund

    Ooh, that is good news, thanks!

  • duppie

    See Fred’s reply.

    Also, while there is no discount at the moment, I would still waste my time buying ten separate tickets. I use Metra 1-2 days a week, so I would spend a lot time buying tickets. Better to buy 10 rides and cut out 90% of the transaction time, no?

  • Erik Swedlund

    That is true, but I was thinking that with the app the transaction time will be hopefully very small (compared to standing in line to see an agent) so the time savings was small–and can be done while sitting on the train.

    Using Metra 1-2 days a week is much more than my use case, where buying a 10-ride pass generally means that the pass will expire before I take all the rides. With that many transactions, I can see the utility in getting the pass to reduce transaction time.

    I can visualize methods that the app could use to provide 10-ride passes. I do not hold too much hope that it will, though.

  • skyrefuge

    Regarding the Divvy rider on the Ryan: any credible theories how this can happen? I just find it interesting that in both the Ryan and LSD cases, the rider has somehow made it all the way to the leftmost lane/shoulder. The two events seem nearly identical from that perspective, so I’m wondering if there’s some common mechanism at work. I could understand someone accidentally turning down an entrance ramp, and just carrying on because they’re too scared/confused to stop, but that would usually still leave them on the right side of the road. It’s hard enough to make it to a left-turn lane on a bike on a 2-lane street, so how the heck does someone “accidentally” make it across 5(!) lanes (4 in the case of LSD) of expressway traffic?

    Perhaps the more likely explanation is that these riders *entered* from the left side? That would also imply that more riders accidentally end up on expressways than we’re aware of, simply because right-side entrances are far more common than left-side entrances; more-frequent right-side enter-ers would go unnoticed because they’re able to exit more quickly.

    There’s a not-completely-absurd case to be made for a left-side entrance for the LSD-rider. She could have been riding north on the Lake Front Path, and while on the lower level of the bridge over the Chicago River, somehow dropped into the Lower LSD traffic lanes rather than the sidewalk/path. Then, it would only require taking the left fork (where there are only two relatively untrafficed lanes to slide across) rather than the right fork to end up on the left-side entrance ramp to upper LSD. Further south, she could have also entered lower LSD from a left turn off Lower Wacker (which would take a bit of effort to get to into the first place), or the left side of upper LSD from a left turn off Randolph (a little easier to get to), or even the left side of LSD from a left turn all the way back at Monroe.

    The southbound Ryan-rider is a bit more difficult to fathom. The southern-most left-side entrance is at Madison, over a mile from where she was spotted. That’s made even less likely by the fact that there’s an easily-accessible “Accident Investigation Site” in the median that she would have passed and could have taken refuge in ’til rescue arrived.

    Here’s a StreetView of the location the LSD-rider was video-ed:,-87.6143573,3a,75y,291.56h,83.62t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sggbvkmxNIhSZL7yK6fJEsg!2e0

    And here’s a StreetView of the precise location the Ryan-rider was photographed at (I matched the “1724” on the Jersey Barrier):,-87.6445488,3a,75y,117.14h,70.93t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sJmrkLwgDv4MQeOgYnzUufg!2e0

  • BlueFairlane

    I’m grasping at straws, but say you do accidentally come down the Madison ramp and find yourself on the left side of the expressway, and say you’re the type of person who panics easily and makes bad decisions under extreme stress. You know you can’t cross to the right side. Turning around with a bike, even if you get off it, with that much traffic buzzing so close may seem more dangerous than riding on. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, you may theorize that if a ramp came down onto the left lane, there might be another that goes up. And with some people, once they’re committed to something like that, they just stay with it and hope for the best. I would think that once you ride up that hill, you’d rethink that, and the investigation site would be very inviting, but some people’s brains just paralyze once they reach a certain level of fear. It’s not a great explanation, but it’s all I can come up with that doesn’t assume some mental health issue.

    Here’s an admission: Once when I was new to Chicago, I was exploring around Bridgeport and took a turn I didn’t know at a whim. It turned out to be the ramp onto the Ryan off 31st. I realized this when I got about halfway down, but I saw the ramp for 35th was right there and didn’t want to turn around, so I said screw it and rode on. You’re probably right … this likely happens a lot.

  • Jakub Muszynski

    If you set it up you can.

    This just involves signing into google wallet and tapping it at a ventra vending machine, and adding some value to the new account. After that it works like a regular ventra card. The only downside is that currently you cannot register the virtual card (google wallet) with the ventra website, and therefore you cannot manage it online or recover funds if your phone gets lost or stolen.

    Still it’s super convenient and cool, until your new “card” runs out of battery.

  • Jakub Muszynski

    Do you ever think we will ever have fare capping (daily) such as the Oyster card has? Wouldn’t that be so nice.

  • alexfrancisburchard

    I wonder if they train the bike cops to obey the stoplights. I get tired of riding around the city, and seeing the bike cops be the worst of us cyclists.

  • skyrefuge

    I like the “if there’s a ramp that goes down, there must be one that goes up” theory. It may be grasping at straws, but it’s at least grasping at legitimate-sounding straws that I hadn’t considered before!

  • ohsweetnothing

    I think we had this same discussion months (years?) ago, where my very limited interaction with bike cops has actually been very positive.

    That’s not to say you’re wrong though. I often see cops be the worst of us drivers, so similar behavior on bikes isn’t much of a stretch!

  • alexfrancisburchard

    yeah, just every time I see a bike cop, while I’m riding my bike, I stop at the red light, and they whiz right on through, even on dearborn, into traffic. they do not seem to even teach them traffic safety, let alone just following the rules.