In general, I like CTA President Forrest Claypool and think he's done a good job since being appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011.
But boy, he sure has made a mess of the Ventra fare/debit card release.
In government, transparency rules. It is a key to winning the trust of citizens.
But there was a basic lack of transparency on rules and fees for the Ventra card from the beginning, and now it's coming back to bite Claypool.
I can't help but think how much easier it would have been if all the various fees and rules for using the new Ventra card had been laid out back when the system was unveiled in September 2012. Instead, they have been revealed in a piecemeal fashion. And a journalist had to read the fine print of a 1,000-page contract to learn of some of the onerous fees tied to the debit card side of the Ventra card.
And Claypool owns this mess. He appeared on WTTW's Chicago Tonight Tuesday night to answer his critics, particularly the Chicago Tribune.
Claypool essentially scoffed at the Tribune report that fees to use Ventra as a debit card will be $200 a year. "Simply not true," he said. "That's a hypothetical, extreme example. Ventra is in the bottom quartile on costs compared to other debit cards. " Claypool went on to stress that using Ventra as a debit card is a voluntary.
Of course, Claypool is right about that. But it also would have been the right thing to do to lay out all these facts at the very beginning.
So we'll call this Ventra mess Claypool's first big stumble. And we'll hope it's his last.