How to Buy Metra Train Tickets: Guide to Purchasing & Using

Riding the Metra train is a convenient way to commute and travel around the Chicagoland area. However, knowing how to purchase tickets and use them properly is important to avoid fines or confusion. So how do you buy Metra tickets? The main ways are to purchase tickets at the station, onboard the train, or digitally through the Ventra app. Tickets can be one-way, unlimited ride passes, or 10-rides. Prices are based on fare zones, with discounts available. Read on for a comprehensive guide on buying and using Metra tickets correctly!

Where Can I Buy Metra Tickets?

There are a few options when it comes to purchasing Metra tickets for your trip:

At the Train Station

Tickets can be purchased at Metra stations when a ticket agent is on duty. Look for the sign noting hours of operation to determine if an agent is currently there to assist with ticket purchases. Payment methods accepted include cash, credit/debit and Ventra cards.

If a ticket agent is not on duty, no worries! Tickets can also be purchased onboard the train from the conductor when they come around to collect tickets after departure.

Onboard the Train

You can buy a Metra ticket onboard the train from the conductor after boarding if you were unable to purchase one ahead of time. One key thing to note – there is a $5 surcharge per ride when buying a ticket this way. Payment methods accepted are cash or Ventra card. Make sure to have exact change ready.

Metra Mobile Tickets on Ventra App

The Ventra app offers contactless tickets on your smartphone, allowing convenient access to Metra tickets. To use, simply download the Ventra app from the App Store or Google Play.

Benefits of using the app include:

  • Storing payment information for easy checkout
  • Access tickets immediately on your phone
  • Activate mobile tickets while onboard
  • Avoid ticket lines while rushing to catch your train!

Metra Station Vending Machines

Ticket vending machines are available at many Metra stations for self-service ticket purchases. Payment options include cash, debit/credit cards and Ventra cards. Vending machines dispense printed tickets rather than mobile versions.

What Types of Metra Tickets Are Available?

Metra offers a variety of ticket options to suit different travel needs:

One-Way Tickets

One-way tickets allow one-time travel between stations on the Metra system. Prices are based on the number of fare zones traveled. These expire 3 hours after purchase if not activated.

Unlimited Ride Passes

Passes allow unlimited Metra rides for a set time period from first use. Options include:

  • 1-Day Pass – 24 hour pass
  • 3-Day Pass – 72 hour pass
  • 7-Day Pass – 7 day pass
  • 10-Ride Ticket – 10 rides

Weekend Passes

For weekend travelers, Metra offers:

  • $7 Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Pass – unlimited rides on the specified day
  • $10 Weekend Pass – unlimited rides Sat/Sun

Both types available on Ventra app only.

Monthly Passes

For regular commuters, monthly passes offer a cost-effective option. These allow unlimited Metra rides for an entire month from the first use. Monthly passes range from $75-$135 depending on fare zones.

Student, senior and disability discounts are available on select ticket types for those who qualify.

How Much Do Metra Tickets Cost?

Metra uses a zone-based system to determine fares. The cost depends on:

  • Number of fare zones traveled
  • Type of ticket (one-way, pass, etc)
  • Whether you receive a special discount

For specifics on pricing based on zones, check the fare tables here. These detail the regular and reduced fares, passes, and discounts across zones.

Some key things that impact fares:

  • Traveling to/from downtown – zone 1 stations like Union Station have premium pricing
  • Longer distances – additional fare zones means higher prices
  • Passes – offer discounted per ride rates when you purchase multiple rides upfront
  • Discounts – seniors, students, military personnel receive reduced rates

One-way tickets between suburban stations not involving downtown start at just $3.75, regardless of distance. A great value!

Additionally, buying tickets onboard the train comes with a $5 surcharge per ride on top of the base fare. So plan ahead if possible!

How Do I Use the Ventra App for Metra Tickets?

The Ventra app provides an easy way to store payment methods and access mobile tickets on your smartphone for Metra.

To use Ventra for Metra ticketing:

  1. Download the Ventra app on your Android or iPhone
  2. Create an account
  3. Add credit/debit card or Ventra payment method
  4. When ready to ride, purchase ticket and activate mobile ticket during journey
  5. Show the conductor using your phone when they come around to collect tickets

Benefits of getting Metra tickets on the Ventra app include:

  • Secured personal account to store tickets
  • Purchase tickets anywhere, anytime – even while racing to catch your train!
  • Activate tickets right on your phone instead of fumbling for your paper ticket
  • Access tickets even in offline mode – just ensure you’ve activated it before signal cuts out
  • Scan feature allows conductor to quickly validate fare payment
  • Receive alerts if payment didn’t go through so you can fix it before your ride

Plus, moving an existing Ventra transit card to your smartphone also enables the ticketing and alerts features for CTA rides too. Pretty handy when using multiple transit services!

For step-by-step guidance, check Ventra’s instructions on using mobile tickets.

Can I Get Discounted Metra Tickets?

Metra offers reduced fares on select tickets for qualifying seniors, students, persons with disabilities and active military members. This includes discounts of about 50% on regular fares.

To determine eligibility and get an RTA reduced fare permit, you must submit an application. Details can be found on the RTA website here.

Discounts are available across multiple Metra ticket types and fare zones with a valid permit. For specifics, see the reduced fare sections on Metra’s fares page.

What If I Forget to Buy a Ticket Before Boarding?

Don’t panic if you board your Metra train and realize you forgot to purchase a ticket beforehand! You have couple options:

Buy from onboard conductor

Explain the situation and purchase a ticket from the conductor when they pass by. Payment options are cash or Ventra card. Please prepare exact change to speed up the process.

Just be aware there is a $5 surcharge per ride when buying your fare onboard instead of ahead of time. Plan accordingly so you have sufficient funds.

Use Ventra mobile

If you have the Ventra app, quickly purchase your mobile ticket and activate it as soon as possible during the route. Show the conductor the active ticket on your phone when they arrive. No surcharge applies when you show an active mobile ticket!

As long as the app confirms your purchase before the conductor gets to you, a mobile ticket bought onboard counts! Just follow Ventra’s instructions properly.

Activating and Using Your Metra Mobile Ticket

If you purchase Metra tickets using the Ventra mobile app, you must manually activate them from your phone during your journey. Here are some tips:

  • Activate your mobile ticket after the train departs, not before. You don’t want it expiring if your travel is delayed!
  • But don’t wait too long either – activate it early on so it is ready when the conductor arrives
  • “Use” or “activate” the ticket on the main “Metra Tickets” section of the Ventra app
  • Confirm when prompted that you want to activate the ticket – double check it’s the right one!
  • Your animated mobile ticket will now display, showing it’s been activated
  • You can toggle between apps or lock your phone, your active screen will pull up when accessed again
  • When the conductor comes around, show them your animated mobile ticket
  • They will ask you to tap the screen, causing colored tiles to appear. This allows the conductor to visually confirm the ticket’s validity quickly
  • As long as you properly activated your ticket earlier, this verification process will check out!
  • Your activated mobile ticket will remain valid for 3 hours from activation time
  • If there are unused funds still on the mobile ticket after your ride, these will be automatically stored in your Ventra transit account to pay future fares

Tips for Riding Metra With Your Ticket

Here are some pointers to ensure a smooth journey when riding the Metra with your ticket:

  • Arrive at your station at least 5-10 minutes before scheduled departure to give yourself time to buy a ticket and board
  • Listen for departure announcements and train car assignments so you know where you need to go
  • Have your ticket out and ready as you board to move the line along – paper ticket with punch zone face up or mobile ticket open on your phone
  • Follow signage for car numbers to quickly find a seat once aboard
  • Store luggage properly by utilizing overhead racks or specially designated areas
  • Relax and enjoy your ride! Take in some views of Chicago’s metropolitan area
  • As your destination approaches, gather belongings in advance
  • Verify with the conductor that your stop is next if unsure
  • Deboard carefully when the train comes to a complete stop


Riding Metra can simplify travel around Chicagoland with its extensive regional rail system. Knowing the ticketing process ahead of time alleviates stress so you can relish the convenience.

The key takeaways around how to buy Metra tickets include:

  • Purchase tickets in advance at stations, on the app, or onboard
  • Select the right ticket type based on your schedule
  • Activate mobile tickets properly when traveling with the Ventra app
  • Present tickets to the conductor for fare verification
  • Enjoy discounted fares if you qualify

Follow this guide to seamlessly obtain and use tickets for your Metra trips! Proper planning allows you to navigate the transit journey confidently. So sit back and leave the fare payment details to Metra while you map out the fun things to do once arriving at your destination!

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