The Chicago Transit Authority approved the free Ventra Android and iOS app this week, but riders won't be able to use the app for tap-and-go payments with Near Field Communication-enabled smartphones until early 2016.
Initially, Ventra users can add funds and load passes onto their contactless plastic Ventra card through the mobile app, and also check account balances and receive real-time travel alerts, the CTA said.
Those using the CTA buses or elevated trains or Pace buses will continue to tap the plastic card at entry gates at terminals. However, Metra train users will be able to purchase and display tickets on their smartphones to conductors when using a Ventra account or a personal credit or debit card.
Later in 2015, the CTA said the app would let users replace lost or stolen cards, as well as plan trips.
"Essentially, this app will put a Ventra vending machine in your pocket, giving you the ability to manage your account from wherever it's most convenient for you, whether you ride CTA, Metra or Pace, or all of them," CTA president Forrest Claypool said in a press release.
The three transportation agencies said they have committed $2.5 million to the mobile ticketing project.
Unlike the Tube rails and buses in London that have eliminated cash fares, the CTA still allows commuters to use cash for single rides or to load value onto Ventra cards through vending machines.
The CTA converted fully to the Ventra contactless card system in July, after months of testing and assuring that technology provider Cubic's upgrades had resolved some earlier issues with the contactless cards not always working at the card reader locations. Cubic had to address reports that some riders' fares were not always being charged to the Ventra card, and other instances in which a different contactless card in a rider's wallet or purse was instead being charged.