With October just over a day away, CTA riders both young and old are beginning to fret about what happens if they don't get new Ventra cards to replace their Chicago Card Plus or reduced fare cards.
A senior citizen wrote me last week: "Regardless of WHAT CTA said, the new Ventra Reduced Fare cards will not go out until OCTOBER. BECAUSE the old fare card machines are being systematically taken away from CTA subway stations, there is no way to REFILL the previous Reduced Fare Cards until the new ones are sent out, causing many seniors to have to search every El station to try and find one of those machines."
I asked the CTA about this, and was told that the RTA (which is responsible for the reduced fare program) began sending out reduced fare cards on Sept. 9:
"In fact, many seniors have shown up to various balance transfer events with their reduced fare Ventra Cards in hand, asking to transfer their funds from the old reduced fare cards to the replacement cards, which we have done.
"If by chance a person has not received their reduced fare Ventra Card, the magnetic stripe reduced farecards can be reloaded at rail station vending machines until November 15.
"While there will be fewer machines to reload magnetic stripe cards (in order to make room for the new Ventra machines) CTA is posting signs at least a couple of days in advance of their removal so customers can load more value onto magnetic stripe cards to last them until their replacement card arrives in the mail.
"Any remaining balances on reduced fare magnetic stripe cards can be spent down as we will still accept magnetic stripe cards through December 15."
And then there's the date worrying many CTA regulars - Oct. 7, when you will no longer be able to add value to Chicago Cards:
"CTA has an aggressive production schedule to make sure customers receive their (Ventra) cards. Customers can always add extra value to their Chicago Cards before October 7.
"Chicago Cards can be used until November 15, so the value can be spent down and not wasted. What's more, Blue Chicago Card customers can transfer their balances to Ventra Cards at the balance transfer events which are happening now through December."
So, if you haven't gotten your Ventra card yet, and you don't want to get caught short, you better add some value to your Chicago Card/Plus. Then you'll have to spend down the value before Nov. 15 or have it transferred to your Ventra at one of the locations in the link in the above sentence. Of course that doesn't include the hassles with activating the card. More on that tomorrow.
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