Can I Buy Metra Tickets On The Train? Everything need to know

Riding the Metra trains across the Chicago area is a convenient way to get around. With over 242 stations across 11 lines, the commuter rail system connects downtown Chicago with suburbs in Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties.

But what if you’re rushing to catch your Metra train and don’t already have a ticket? Can you buy Metra tickets on the train from the conductor? Or are you limited to certain ticket types depending on where you purchase them?

The short answer is: Yes, you can buy some Metra tickets onboard like one-way tickets, but monthly passes and multi-ride options are not available for purchase on trains. You’ll typically pay a surcharge if you buy a one-way ticket from a conductor when a station agent was present. The Ventra app also now makes it easy to store tickets on your phone for use anytime without extra fees.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll give you the full breakdown on:

  • Metra’s ticket options
  • Where each type of ticket can be purchased
  • Rules and fees for buying one-way tickets onboard
  • Why monthly and multi-ride passes aren’t sold on trains
  • How the Ventra app eliminates surcharges
  • Tips for validating mobile tickets with conductors
  • Key takeaways on what you can and can’t get on Metra trains

Arm yourself with this info so you know the smartest options for getting Metra tickets before boarding or on the train depending on your situation. Let’s dive in!

Overview of Metra Ticket Options

Metra offers riders several different types of tickets to choose from:

  • One-Way Tickets: Allow one-way travel between two stations on the Metra system. Valid for 14 days from purchase date.
  • 10-Ride Tickets: Provide 10 one-way trips between designated stations/zones. Valid for 90 days from purchase date.
  • Day Passes: Offer unlimited Metra rides for a single day. $6 Day Pass good for 1-3 fare zones; $10 Day Pass good systemwide.
  • Weekend Passes: Provide unlimited Saturday and/or Sunday travel ( $7 Saturday/Sunday Pass sold at stations; $10 Weekend Pass on Ventra app).
  • Monthly Passes: Allow unlimited rides all month between specified zones/stations. Valid through noon on the first business day of the next month.

Except weekend/holiday passes, these also come in reduced fares for seniors, people with disabilities, students, etc.

Now let’s look at where you can actually get each pass and if it can be purchased onboard the train.

Where Tickets Can Be Purchased

Metra tickets are sold at stations by ticket agents (depending on hours), from ticket vending machines (select stations), or directly through the Ventra app:

Ticket Agents

  • All types of tickets available during open hours
  • Cash/credit cards accepted

Vending Machines

  • Sell One-Way and Day Passes
  • Cash/credit cards accepted

Ventra App

  • Buy any Metra ticket digitally with app
  • Store tickets securely in app

You can also buy certain Metra tickets onboard trains in limited situations:

Buying One-Way Tickets On Trains

One-Way Tickets can be purchased onboard Metra trains with cash when:

  • No ticket agent or vending machine at your station
  • In a rush and didn’t have time to buy before boarding

However, there’s an important catch here.

If a ticket agent was present at your station when you boarded and you didn’t get a ticket beforehand, you’ll pay a $5 surcharge when buying the one-way ticket from the conductor on the train.

The good news is that Metra is temporarily suspending this surcharge beginning on February 1, 2024 when a new fare structure takes effect. So at least for some time, you won’t have to worry about extra fees if buying tickets with conductors.

The Ventra app provides an even more convenient option though…

Use Ventra App to Avoid Surcharges

With the Ventra app, Chicago-area transit riders can securely buy Metra mobile tickets on their smartphones anytime without extra charges.

By getting your ticket ahead of time on the app instead of from a conductor, you avoid surcharges while also skipping ticket lines.

The app stores tickets even where no signal exists, allowing you to:

  • Buy tickets before reaching station
  • Activate after you board
  • Show your mobile ticket offline to conductor

This makes Ventra the smartest choice when in a pinch to ride Metra.

Monthly and Multi-Ride Passes Not Available Onboard

While one-way tickets can be purchased on Metra trains in some situations, other types of tickets definitely CANNOT be bought onboard. These include:

Monthly Passes
10-Ride Tickets
Day Passes
Weekend Passes

To buy any of those options, you need to get them from:

  • Station ticket agent
  • Vending machine (only offers Day Passes)
  • Ventra app (best choice!)

So remember, while you might be able to score a one-way ticket from a conductor, multi-use and unlimited-ride Metra tickets need to be purchased beforehand online or at stations during operating hours.

Tips for Using Ventra App

To avoid ticket stress when riding Metra (or Chicago’s CTA trains and buses which Ventra also covers), take a minute to download the Ventra app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Sign up for an account to unlock key features for utilizing the app to its fullest:

🔑 Secure ticket storage/access
🔑 Faster ticket purchases
🔑 Balance protection if phone lost

Be sure to buy digital tickets before heading to the station whenever possible. But even if you’re already aboard, quickly adding value or buying tickets is easy.

Other tips include:

  1. 💡 Store tickets even w/no signal
  2. 💡 Activate ticket after boarding train
  3. 💡 Manage payment methods for fast checkout
  4. 💡 Add transit value instantly if needed

Validating Mobile Tickets Onboard

Wondering how conductors verify Metra mobile tickets? It’s a simple visual process:

1️⃣ Rider opens Ventra app to display active ticket
2️⃣ Conductor checks animated ticket
3️⃣ Rider taps screen when asked

This triggers a color change confirming it’s a legit, active Metra ticket.

Note: Riders using reduced fares still need to show the conductor their permit/ID per usual. But conductor ticket inspection is easy.

By using digital tickets, you get access wherever you go without fumbling for paper or coins when you ride.

Remember These Key Points About Onboard Purchases

To recap what you can and cannot buy from Metra conductors:

🚅 One-Way Tickets allowed with cash (possible surcharge if agent at station)

🚫 Multi-ride and unlimited passes NOT available

🚫 Monthly Passes only allowed from ticket agents, machines, app

📲 Ventra app best choice for surcharge-free tickets & convenience

🚅 Save time with digital tickets, but one-way paper works too

Hopefully this breakdown gives you more confidence and options when boarding Metra trains for your next trip. Don’t let a lack of ticket create unnecessary early-morning stress. With various purchase choices—including from your mobile device whenever needed—you’ll always have access to quick and easy Metra tickets.

Now those trains won’t leave the station without you! Enjoy the ride.

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