Prior to that time, there were many suburban bus routes which operated directly into downtown Chicago. Those routes generally have since been changed to instead feed into CTA rapid transit terminals, where a one fare ride would now be available. And all of those older suburban routes no longer serve downtown Chicago. Only a few newer routes operate into downtown Chicago, primarily from the southwest suburbs. Higher fares apply on these buses. In addition, those higher fares apply on special Pace express bus routes primarily to and from sporting events.
This unified CTA and RTA suburban fare structure applied through 1986, although fares increased during that time period. The RTA funding crisis of the early 1980's resulted in increases of the basic fare to 90 cents, 10 cents for a transfer, by 1981. That fare structure applied until 1986.
Over the next 15 years, Pace and CTA fares gradually went up, with Pace fares generally remaining lower. By 2001 the basic Pace fare was $1.25, with a transfer still costing 10 cents. But in that year, Pace increased its basic fares to match the CTA fares of $1.50, with 30 cents for a transfer. Pace fares became lower once again in 2004, when CTA fares were raised to $1.75, with 25 cents for a transfer. And to simplify things for passengers transferring between Pace and CTA, Pace lowered its transfer cost to 25 cents, while retaining a $1.50 base fare. In 2009, Pace raised the base fare to $1.75, with a transfer still 25 cents. And Pace express bus routes cost $4. In 2016, Pace raised the base cash fare to $2, but riders using the Ventra card would still be charged only $1.75. And in 2018, the base cash fare was increased to $2.25, with the Ventra card deduction going up to $2, and the Ventra transfer deduction going up to 30 cents. And the Pace express bus fare was increased to $4.50. In 2023, the 30 cent transfer cost was eliminated.
Until 2009, Pace had a fare for "local" routes which was lower than the regular fare. These local routes consisted of those in the "satellite" cities of Aurora, Elgin, Joliet, and Waukegan, as well as most commuter rail "feeder" bus routes.
Unlike with the original RTA Transfer, the new Pace transfers would not be exchanged for CTA transfers on CTA, but punched and returned if a ride remained.
Below are Pace paper transfers issued during the 1990's. In 1995, Pace and CTA adopted new transfers with a magnetic stripe, which were not compatible with the older fare boxes still in use by the contract operators. The transfer form to the right would continue to be issued by the contract operators.
For Pace "local" routes, a free transfer would be available for one additional ride on another route within a local system. The rule against using on the same route would still apply for local transfers. Until 2009, the basic fare on these local routes was lower than than on regular routes. Although Pace eliminated the lower local fares in 2009, the free local transfers were retained.
In 2006, CTA abolished the issuing of transfers with cash fares, and stopped accepting Pace transfers. Riders would be encouraged to use CTA's stored value cards, as the most economical ways to transfer between systems. Transfer rules would remain the same, using these cards. In 2014, after both CTA and Pace adopted the Ventra stored value card, Pace abolished transfers.
CTA eliminated the use of Transfer Cards in 2006, encouraging its riders to instead use the available stored value cards. Pace continued to use Transfer Cards, which by then were only labeled for Pace.
The Pace fare boxes also evolved with CTA's stored value card technology. Although the stored value cards initially could not be used on the contract route buses without the newer fare boxes. The first CTA stored value card was the "Transit Card" with a magnetic stripe, introduced in 1997. In 2004, CTA replaced the Transit Card with the "Chicago Card", a durable plastic card with an imbedded chip. In 2013 and 2014, both CTA and Pace adopted the Ventra card, with an imbedded chip but using newer computer technology. In 2014 Pace abolished transfers, encouraging passengers to use Ventra cards to benefit from transfer rates.