Metra, a rail system that serves some 324,300 passengers in the greater Chicago area each weekday, by February plans to start accepting credit cards. Phil Pagano, Metra executive director, announced the plan at the agency's board meeting on Friday. Metra will accept cards for payments online and at attended stations, but not yet on trains, Michael Gillis, a Metra spokesperson, tells CardLine. The only card Metra "probably" will not accept is American Express because AmEx charges higher transaction fees, Gillis says. The move comes after state Sen. Michael Bond (D-Grayslake) introduced legislation March 26 that would require the Commuter Rail Board, which oversees Metra, to implement a card-acceptance system by January. "We have one of the largest commuter rail systems in the country, but our system of allowing riders to purchase train tickets is extremely antiquated," Bond said in a statement. "Allowing the use of credit cards to purchase fares is a basic public service that any modern rail transit system should offer to its customers." Metra has been reluctant to accept payment cards because "we've been reluctant to pass on the cost of it to our riders," Gillis says. Metra estimates the initial costs of implementing card acceptance at $3 million to $4 million. Metra has no immediate plans to raise fares to cover the extra costs of accepting cards for payment, he says. The Regional Transportation Authority, which coordinates the region's transit network among Metra, the Chicago Transit Authority and PACE, the Chicago suburban-area bus service, tells CardLine the authority welcomes Metra's plans. "We are very pleased with Metra moving toward having a credit card" payment option, the spokesperson tells CardLine. "That better aligns with our efforts to have a universal fare card for our transit system, which is one of our primary goals to make the transit system easier for riders."

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