Since I've been reporting on the problems with the CTA Ventra card rollout, I've gotten scores and scores of email and comments from frustrated and angry readers. Although a handful reported no problems and "easy-peasy," most did not.
At this point, I think the CTA must do the right thing and put off the Oct. 7 date when riders can no longer add value to Chicago Cards. As Michael said in a comment: "There is absolutely no reason why CTA customers should have to plan for CTA failure."
Here's a sampling of recent comments and emails:
The (mostly) good:
No drama machine purchase. Last week I walked up to the vending machine at Clark / Lake, bought a Ventra card for $6 ($5 fee + $1 value). Registered the card. Shortly thereafter had $6 on the card. Did one reload via credit card. I am carefully watching the account. So far no problems. Though it took over a day for my Wed AM trip to be priced.
Quick balance transfer. I finally got my Ventra card today--after a full 15 business days, not the "7 to 10" business days the "Convenience is coming!" email announced it would take. But I will say, it took only about 15 minutes for my old Chicago Card Plus balance to transfer over.
Easy-peasy activation. I got an e-mail over the summer asking me to verify my address, and I did, easy-peasy. I got an e-mail saying the Ventra card was coming, and a few weeks later it did. I followed the activation instructions, easy-peasy. CCP balance came over the next day. I used it for the first time today -- no problem, and faster than CCP.
Got hung up on. My credit card was charged $20 on 9/18 for the auto-reload. The amount shows on my credit card statement but hasn't cleared through ventra on my account. Spoke to someone Friday, the issue still hasn't been resolved. I called twice this morning, spoke to someone for 1 minute, got put on hold again and BOTH times I got hung up on. My support tickets online go straight to "Closed" status, so I've had no help through there.
Two full fares instead of transfer. Transferred from rail to bus yesterday and I was charged both another full fare and a transfer when boarding the bus. Online support request was immediately given a status of "Closed Incident."
And another one. Same thing happened with me transferring from one bus to another. Charged full fare for first ride and full fare plus a transfer for my second ride. Checked my balance online and saw the problem. I first tried calling the support number and left numerous messages. I then filled out the contact form. When I checked the status online it stated "Incident Closed." I was furious. I called early in the morning and only had to wait 18 minutes. The service agent was nice, but probably was overwhelmed.
Customer service complaints:
Bad "contact us" design. My second trip using Ventra and I was double charged. I called and got a message telling me that I should expect a hold time of 17 minutes. I tried posting a message on the Contact Us link on the Ventra site and had only the choice of "Other" on the Select A Subject dropdown. Who are these clowns and what led them to think this was ready to release?
Hotline is a joke. I have tried for 2 days to get answers for a couple of questions. The Ventra hotline is a joke! You end up in an infinite loop. One of my questions regards Pace and CTA melding. I called Pace and they said call Ventra. UGHH!
Activation woes. A couple of weeks ago I ordered two Ventra cards, one for me and one for my wife. Both arrived after 10 days. Hers immediately activated. After at least 8 tries and a couple of contact Ventra attempts through their website nothing happened with mine, it kept saying the access code was wrong (it wasn't). A phone call lasting a total of 40 minutes, mostly on hold fixed it.
Activation crap. I just tried to activate my card. I'm looking RIGHT AT my access code under the account settings, and the system is telling me it doesn't match. Before, I was willing to give Ventra the benefit of the doubt, but seriously? Don't launch something if it is still seriously flawed. What a sh*tshow.
Invalid numbers? I bought my Ventra today at a CTA station. The web site says it has an invalid combination of numbers.
Other problematic stuff:
Got 277 cards in mail - no joke! I was just searching online to see if anyone else had gotten a zillion cards in the mail! back at the beginning of september, I got a couple hundred of email confirmations as well, and yesterday, the poor postman tried to fit 277 envelopes in our mail box, all from Ventra! I left a message on their customer service line, but I kinda doubt they will be calling back....I haven't tried to register any of them yet, I wonder which of them is the right one?
Readers not working. I have a Ventra 30-day pass which I've been using mostly successfully except for the bad readers I've found. I went to the Adams/Wabash stop, missed a green line train, decided to leave the station to run an errand while I waited for the next green line and then come back. My card didn't work at any of the turnstiles, I assume due to some sort of timeout that I couldn't re-enter again for a certain period of time. I tried approximately 6 different turnstiles. It sounds like it is programmed somewhere.
Ventra breaks its own rule on usernames. Ventra has given me a username with an illegal character (an apostrophe). This means I cannot update my profile, add funds, or contact customer service (through the webpage). It also won't let me change my username, when I click on the "change username" field it forces me to update my other information but won't give me the option to change the username.... so the only way around this seems to be to call customer service as it's left my account totally unusable.
Reader problems on #36 and #22 buses. The Ventra card reader is fine on the 156 and the 151. Everytime I take the 36 or 22 the card isn't readable. It is so frustrating. At least it is good to know I am not the only one.
What's up with needing a nickname? I have not been able to register my card because the online questions ask for a nickname. There was nothing in the account format that asked to create a nickname. I have used everything - username, access code and pin. I am not able to register.
Service: Ridiculous, useless. I come to the city on an irregular basis. I don't carry cash. This VENTRA is ridiculous. I ordered a VENTRA card on September 9th. No card yet, but they quickly took the 10 dollars from my bank account. The phone number is useless and I've left 4 messages on the support page of the VENTRA site and reached out to them on Twitter This is not suppose to be hard. I don't need a pass. I just want to get on the L two times.
Risking trouble with too-short conversion window. Converting to the Ventra system surely is a big, complex project. And it is good that "CTA has an aggressive production schedule to make sure customers receive their (Ventra) cards." However the schedule has not been so aggressive that I have received a Ventra card -- despite an e-mail more than a month ago telling me to expect one shortly. I am not grouchy about this. Really. But I cannot see why CTA would risk making unnecessary trouble for its riders and for itself by trying to push people through a too short conversion window.
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