Chicago taps Cubic for regional transit mobile app

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Chicago area transit agencies Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra, and suburban bus operator Pace have awarded Cubic Transportation Systems a contract to supply an integrated, smart phone-based system supporting a variety of mobile ticketing, mobile top up, and contactless mobile payment applications using Near Field Communication (NFC), account management, and advanced trip planning technologies that incorporate all three regional agencies.

The new mobile app and associated services, which will give travelers a single mobile app to plan their journey, pay, and receive real-time alerts across all public transit services in the Chicago region, transforms the Cubic-supplied Ventra fare payment system into a common payment system for Chicagoland’s three largest operators. Ventra is the first large U.S. fare system that is account-based and built on open standards, giving riders the choice to pay directly by tapping their personal contactless bankcards, mobile wallets, or Ventra-branded smart cards at CTA and Pace fare terminals. Ventra has processed more than 473 million fare transactions and has more than 3.8 million active accounts.

“This is the first truly regional transit app in the U.S. and the first to integrate proof-of-payment (both visual inspection and 2D bar code scanning) mobile commuter rail ticketing with NFC fare processing for rail and bus operations,” Cubic said.

The base contract, valued at $5.4 million, is for app development, hosting, and support services. During the contract term, which coincides with an Open Standards Fare System contract, Cubic has the potential to earn commissions when tickets are purchased using the mobile app.

The system is being provided as a managed service and is supported via the integration of Cubic’s NextWave Mobile Business System and GlobeSherpa’s mobile ticketing platform. It integrates with Ventra’s back office system using Cubic’s NextCity portfolio of account-based open payment solutions for transportation applications. NextWave is a comprehensive platform that enables transit operators to provide new mobile services to their customers while minimizing changes to fare systems and equipment. Cubic’s NextAccount and Cubic Payment Application components drive the single account for Ventra’s payment processing and back office systems across the three transit operators for transactions paid through the app, and all three NextCity elements are integrated with the GlobeSherpa platform. “This integration makes the concept of a smart, integrated transit network a tangible reality for the regional Chicago area.” Cubic said.

With the new app, Metra riders will be able to use their mobile devices for ticket purchase and display. Registered Ventra users will be able to manage their Metra mobile tickets and use the app to add value to their card and manage their account, including ordering and registering a card, checking balances, and managing payment and auto load. In later releases, Ventra customers with NFC phones will be able to store a virtual Ventra card in the phone and simply tap their phone at CTA rail turnstiles and board CTA and Pace buses to access the system.

The mobile app will be progressively introduced starting in first-quarter 2015 with periodic releases through 2016 offering new features and functions.

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