Thursday, March 26, 2009

IL Metra Accept Credit Cards? That's (For) The Ticket!

Monday's Chicago Tribune featured a story, "Metra service: Why Metra is riding slow train to future" with a list of "suggested" improvements to bring Metra into the 21st century. Accepting credit cards for tickets was the second "suggestion."

State Senator Michael Bond from Grayslake thinks that "suggestion" should become law and yesterday became the Chief Sponsor of Senate Bill 577 (SB 577) that would direct Metra to accept credit cards. This is long-overdue. I've waited numerous times in Metra ticket lines, watching potential passengers, incredulous and frustrated, find out that they cannot buy a ticket without cash or a check, and leave. We should make riding Metra easy, not difficult. If you think it's time for Metra to use credit cards then please

Click Here To Take Action

Senator Bond will be giving a press conference on the legislation today - Your Action Now will help increase the chance that Metra will start taking credit cards soon!

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Blogger The Urbanophile said...

Wrong. I'm in favor of taking credit cards, don't get me wrong. But where does the 4% service fee get recovered?

What's more, one of the worst problems with public transit in America is excessive regulations and mandates, usually unfunded, imposed by the federal and state government. This byzantine morass needs to be chopped away at, not added to.

1:26 PM  
Blogger John Bredin said...

"But where does the 4% service fee get recovered?"

How much is Metra paying now to handle checks? Or cash? Credit cards have an explicit fee, but checks and cash have implicit fees.

Cash requires armored cars to transport it, clerks to recount it as it comes in from the ticket agents, and other accounting or loss prevention measures.

Checks aren't inherently valuable to an embezzling clerk or a bold robber, so they don't require as many security measures. However, they still need to be physically moved around. Moreover, a certain percentage of checks will bounce. Whatever Metra (or another merchant) does to reduce that percentage also costs money.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Metra stop handling cash. There are too many one-way and weekend-pass tickets sold for cash for that to be feasible.

However, Metra could stop taking checks -- a lot of merchants nowadays don't accept checks. Given the bad-check "blacklists" I've seen pinned to ticket agents' counters at Ogilvie Station, I suspect that no longer "eating" the cost of bouncy checks, or bounced-check prevention measures, would at least partially offset the credit-card service fee.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Cal Blue said...

I'm against this.

The only way I'd favor it is if they give a cash discount. (Note that while you can't "charge a fee" for credit card users, under my business credit card arrangement I could offer a cash discount as long as the credit card price is listed as the normal price and the cash price is given as a discount or bonus.)

They could raise the price and then announce that if you paid in cash, your cost wouldn't go up. Let card users pay for their "convenience."

And John Bredin, let me just say as a business owner it doesn't cost that much to process cash or checks. You're being silly. The percentage fee charged by credit companies is enormous comparatively.

6:39 PM  
Blogger plaws said...

Mr Blue, your business may not incur a high cost for handling cash, but how many stations does your business collect cash at? Metra operates four major downtown terminals and dozens, if not hundreds, of outlying stations. All of those stations handle cash that must be counted, verified, secured, audited, etc.

In addition, cash is accepted on board ALL trains. Hundreds of them per day. The on-board crew have to account for all cash collected and must deposit it at the end of their runs, whether inbound or outbound.

How does this compare to your business's cash handling? How many daily armored car runs would your business eliminate if it went to credit cards?

10:39 AM  

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