Tap and go: CTA, Pace launch digital Ventra card for iPhone and Apple Watch riders

Abdel Jimenez, Chicago Tribune

CTA and Pace have launched a digital tap-and-go fare payment system, giving commuters a touchfree way to board buses and trains as the agencies try to woo riders back to public transit amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Commuters with iPhones and Apple Watches can load their Ventra cards onto the Apple Wallet application on their devices as of Monday, the agencies said in a news release.

Under the express transit mode, riders can scan their device, without opening apps or unlocking it, at a Ventra card reader on buses and at train stations. Riders' devices will vibrate and a green go sign will appear on the reader to indicate their fare is accepted. The express transit mode is automatically activated for the first Ventra card in Apple Wallet and commuters will have to set up the feature for additional fare cards purchased, according to CTA.

Riders can access the Ventra card on iPhone and Apple Watch through the Ventra app, which allows them to add transit value or passes to their cards, set up autoload and use pre-tax transit benefits from their employers.

The digital card works on CTA and Pace suburban bus services and is not available for Metra or Pace Paratransit. Commuters under special fare programs like reduced fares for seniors and people with qualifying disabilities, student fare cards and free ride Ventra cards won’t have access to load their cards to the wallet app, CTA said.

Ridership on the CTA is still down about a million per day compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to the agency, which said last week it is projecting a $375 million budget shortfall next year.

abjimenez@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @abdel1019

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