CTA to test Ventra card in August; full rollout set for September

The secret is out: Select CTA and Pace customers will test the new Ventra payment system beginning in August, the CTA announced today. All customers can begin using the Ventra card - or their own contactless bank card - in September.

Through the fall, riders will be able to use the old fare media, including CTA’s Chicago Cards, Chicago Card Plus and all CTA magnetic stripe fare cards, as well as Pace’s multi-ride passes. But these old fare cards will cease to operate by December.

Here's the rollout plan, according to the CTA news release:

July

  • Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card customers will receive notifications via email/mail of the transition to Ventra, and a few weeks later will receive their new Ventra Cards in the mail with instructions on how to activate.
  • Pace will hold regional outreach events at which customers can receive information about the advantages Ventra offers and ask questions of Pace staff.
  • As part of Ventra outreach efforts, mobile Ventra Buses will visit multiple Chicago and suburban events and festivals to familiarize customers with Ventra and demonstrate how to use the new fare payment system.

August

  • Ventra launches for the first targeted group of users including Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card users and students at schools participating in the U-Pass program.
  • Chicago Public Schools and Chicagoland students will begin the transition to Ventra for the Fall 2013 semester.

September

  • All CTA customers and Pace fixed route bus customers are able to use Ventra.
  • Customers can obtain Ventra Cards, begin purchasing products and/or purchasing stored value at all CTA rail stations where vending machines are installed, online, by phone, at hundreds of neighborhood retailers, and the Ventra customer service center.
  • Both Ventra and the existing fare systems will run in parallel, and CTA and Pace will accept both old and new fare media. Customers can begin transferring stored value balances from old media types to Ventra Cards.

Through spring 2014

  • CTA and Pace customers will have an additional three months to transfer balances on old fare cards to Ventra Cards.

I haven't seen any information in the Ventra FAQs on how riders who use the transit benefit users through their employer will use the new system. I would prefer to use it via my own debit card rather than a Ventra card. But it will be great for tourists and regular riders to have the option of using their contactless bank cards to pay for fares.

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  • Answers one question frequently posted here.

    The question was also prompted by loading up old cards, and the press release says that balances can be transferred from them, but didn't say how.

  • It's ridiculous that they appear to have no clue or plan for the transit benefit program yet. Isn't it actually an RTA program? If so I could totally see the CTA not playing nice with the RTA and completely dropping the ball on this. A lot of Chicago Card Plus users are transit benefit program participants. So when we get mailed a Ventra card in a month we very well may have to leave it at home and keep using CCP for many weeks or months until they get their act together? Lame.

    I also heard they are tripling the fee PER reload charged to employers that offer the transit benefit program. This could be enough for some employers to stop participating. Another hidden Ventra fee that nobody is talking about?

  • I can't wait. 'Tired of waiting behind people boarding the bus while they fart around with their magnetic strip card. Welcome to the 21st century.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Don't worry, they'll find something else to fart around with. Just wait until the Ventra readers start flashing "transaction refused."

    There was nothing inherently time consuming about dipping the magnetic card and pulling it out. Compare that to putting $2.25 in the fare box using small change or waiting for the dollar bills to suck down.

  • In reply to jack:

    Have to disagree with you on that.
    Occasionally, my card won't read & the bus drivers just mumble at you & you don't know whether to try again or find a seat.
    It's even more fun to ride with my neighbor & his Circuit Breaker Ride Free card when that doesn't read. Then the driver looks at the photo, looks at him, looks at the photo, looks at him, repeats that a couple of more times until the neighbor says: "It looks just like me, it's actually a pretty good picture!"

    As for those paying with cash, I still want a fare of at least $4 for cash rides, but $5 would be better & charge the same for strollers!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    It doesn't look like the Circuit Breaker cards will be much different, other than they will have a chip. So, since I doubt that RTA wants everyone to have a free ride, the driver will still have to look at a photo. Remember when the guy who didn't show his card slugged the driver in Chinatown.

    I still think there will be a more dramatic reaction when the reader starts blinking Refused or Invalid or whatever. Also, I don't think that the user will get away with "I didn't know I wasn't supposed to use a refrigerator magnet."

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