At a public hearing Monday, advocates for the poor complained that the CTA was "putting the profits of its corporate partners ahead of the needs of poor people" with the new Ventra fare-payment system debuting this summer, the Tribune reports.
Under the Ventra payment system, passengers will buy for $5 a new contactless fare card to replace the current Chicago Card. Today, if they don't have a Chicago Card, passengers can buy a magnetic strip fare card from a station vending machine for the same price as the $2.25 rail fare. They also can add value to it.
When Ventra use starts this summer, riders will have to pay a 50-cent premium for a single-use card, plus 25 cents for a transfer - whether they need it or not. That doesn't sit well with advocates for the poor:
Keith Smith, who represents a citywide group called People Without a Voice, said the 75-cent cash fare hike should be scrapped because it would hurt low-income riders. The CTA should focus instead on "putting a Ventra card in everybody's hands," Smith said.
The thing is, that's what the CTA is trying to do - put a Ventra card in everybody's hands. It will cost $5 to get the Ventra card initially, but it's worth it. When a passenger registers the card, it will be replaced when lost with its stored value intact. Plus, upon registration, the $5 fee will be reimbursed to the rider and added to the value of the card.
So it's well worth the $5 initial fee.
Now, the CTA must do a better marketing job the Ventra card to both the poor and all passengers. The $3 single-use fee was only recently revealed, so greater transparency about all Ventra matters certainly is needed.
And frankly, I think the advocates for the poor would do well to educate the poor that their best move is to buy a Ventra card.