CTA news: Brown Line slow zone fix underway; Ventra card day is here

Here's the 411 on two major initiatives for the CTA - slow zone repairs on the Ravenswood Connector and the wide debut of the Ventra fare-payment system.

Today marks start of newest Brown, Purple line slow zone project.
The CTA today began a $71 million rehab project in the "Ravenswood Connector" to repair slow zones between Armitage Avenue and the Loop. The project will eliminate more than 70 percent of Brown Line slow zones.

The work will start with the repair and replacement of components on the steel structure between the Armitage and Merchandise Mart elevated stations. Once the infrastructure work is completed, the CTA will begin replacing deteriorated rail ties and track components, work that is expected to begin in 2014.

To minimize the impact to service, structural repair work will be performed mostly late at night and on weekends. During these times, trains traveling in both directions will operate on a single track, which will result in longer travel times and occasionally changes in boarding locations at rail stations. Be sure to check the CTA website each week for info on where that week's work will be.

Ventra cards widely available starting Monday. Yes, this week and Monday the new Ventra fare-payment cards will be put to their harshest test. The cards will be available to purchase at more than 700 retailers, including CVS/pharmacy and Jewel-Osco. Ventra cards also will be available at hundreds of currency exchanges and independent neighborhood shops. Walgreens will begin offering Ventra cards at 159 locations shortly after the September launch. Ventra signs will appear in store windows as the new cards are available, Customers can also visit ventrachicago.com for an updated list of Ventra retail locations.

You also can order them online.

Last week we heard of new problems using the cards at auxiliary rail entrances, such as Paulina. The CTA was working feverishly to fix these glitches.

Also, remember that on Monday you should be able to use contactless bank cards that have the "Blink" logo on the back. So you don't necessarily have to get a Ventra card.
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  • If you plan to use your contactless bankcards, remember that you will be charged a full fare each time you tap a Ventra Card reader -- NO TRANSFERS -- unless you first do the following:

    1) Register your bankcard at http://www.ventrachicago.com
    This will create a Ventra Transit Account.

    2) Fund your Ventra Transit Account as if you were using a Ventra Card. You must put enough money into your Transit Account in advance to pay all your fares. If you come up even a nickle short, you can still use your bankcard to board, but your card will be charged a full fare and you will get NO TRANSFERS.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    This was hashed out on chicagobus.org, and since the Ventra site at least then did not spell that out directly, and unless that is posted at each reading device, is a deceptive practice. Probably one that Lisa will not go after, however.

  • In reply to jack:

    To reinforce what I just said, see Hilkevitch's column today:

    "In fact, owners of contactless credit and debit cards, which like a Ventra card contain radio frequency identification technology, can permanently forgo obtaining a Ventra card and simply tap their contactless credit or debit card on the Ventra reader on buses and at CTA rail stations and pay the same fare."

    Note that nobody told Hilkevitch "full fare and no transfers." That isn't "the same fare."

  • Once again, CTA management ignores its most heavily used line, the North Red Line & fixes a more lightly used line instead of replacing the worn out crossovers north of Granville.
    I really wonder if the bosses on Lake St. just don't care about the most used line.
    It's a simple two weekend job to replace them, so why don't they?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    We know someone who won't give an answer to that, but will say that the objective of that project was met. Apparently, though, the objective was not to remove slow zones or bring the track into a state of good repair, and certainly not to improve the customer experience.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    To modify my comments below, after someone said on chicagobus.org "I don't know why but track speeds seem to be getting slower on the north branch on the red line main around [L]oyola to [H]oward," I checked the July 2013 slow zone report, which shows that the entire northbound is a track slow zone from Wilson to Howard. So, regardless of the objective, replacing track panels had absolutely no positive effect, if you take the slow zone map as true. So, it seems like my point that they spend millions and fix nothing holds again.

    And nobody better tell me that track replacement wasn't part of that project (as opposed to what was contended about the Brown Line).

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    Is it just me, or has the brown line gotten twice as loud now that work has started between Armitage and North Ave.? During rush hour this morning it felt like my building was going to come down.

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