CTA to provide short "grace period" in Ventra card transition for transit benefit customers

The CTA has 53,000 customers who take advantage of the federal transit benefits program. It allows those riders to buy CTA rides with pre-tax dollars through their employer. These folks were among the last to get their new Ventra card.

Their transition to using the Ventra card began last Friday. But not all transit benefits customers have activated their cards. (And I've heard from a few who haven't received them.)

As a result, the CTA will provide transit benefits customers with a grace period that allows them to use their Chicago Card Plus through Nov. 15 in the event that they have not activated their Ventra card, a CTA spokesperson told me via email.

Here's the CTA advice/information for these customers:

  • We strongly encourage customers to activate their cards and make the transition to Ventra as quickly as possible.

  • All employee transit elections for November will post to Ventra accounts whether or not the employee has activated their Ventra card by 11/1.

  • If an employee has not activated Ventra by 11/1, they will not lose their November transit funds. They will be held in the Ventra account and be accessible upon activation of the Ventra card. They will not be posted to Chicago Card Plus accounts.

  • If the customer has an additional funding source (i.e., autoload with a personal bank card or checking account) on their Chicago Card Plus, that funding source will not be cut off as of 11/1 and will still fund their Chicago Card Plus. After customers activate their Ventra cards, any remaining Chicago Card Plus balance will transfer to their Ventra card and they can set up a similar funding source to their Ventra accounts online by logging onto their accounts at ventrachicago.com.

  • If a customer does not have an additional funding source (i.e., autoload with a personal bank card or checking account) on their Chicago Card Plus, they can continue to use their Chicago Card Plus after 11/1. Any remaining balance will be used and any additional rides taken will be deducted from their Ventra account once activated.

From my experience as transit benefits user, this transition is further complicated by the fact that often another third party company administers the benefits program. I had to login to that company's website and delete my Chicago Card Plus, and add my Ventra card. It was not a smooth process. And each administrator has different rule and processes. So it's just more nonsense to get through.

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  • They aren't assuring here that transit benefits people will get their Ventra card on time, and since it is already November, one has to 'trust" then that money put in the Ventra transit account is accessible via a Chicago Card until they ever get the Ventra card.

    The Metra site also indicates that the way transit benefits can be used is being fouled up.

    Except perhaps for the last clause in my first paragraph, it seems like CTA is doing the same thing as it did when it said it was waiving the $5 deposit--i.e. doing nothing.

  • I still have a mixed bag of issues with the cards of our employees, but it DOES seem to be improving. At least two of our employees reported this morning that their transit funds did get loaded on October 31 and so their cards did work. One did talk to Ventra customer service, who told him that his card didn't work on Friday because he needed to hold it on the reader longer (approximately 5 seconds) in order to give the system time to recognize the first use of a new monthly pass. That's the first I've heard that. So his first real use of his pass was November 4, and his account shows that the pass will be good through December 4. This is a good sign.

    Of course the "Transit Benefits" tab on the Ventra site that was promised for October is not there, so I have no idea how I'm going to be able to manage the reloads for December. Since our office is closed between Christmas and New Year's, a lot of employees who usually get monthly passes (myself included) will be going with an $80 reload instead of $100 to avoid wasting those unused funds. I just hope they have the transit benefits management in place within the next couple of weeks or so.

  • I turned mine off until January. First of all , the CTA/Cubic/Satan/whoever really messed up my account. so I don't trust them to do anything beyond taking the $100 out of my paycheck. Secondly, my workplace is changing the way they administer this and I want to wait and see what is happening there before I re-commit. If they are going to do what it sounds like--moving from giving the money directly to the CTA to putting it on a debit card and letting me use that to pay--then I'll sign up for it again. If they continue to just hand over my money to the CTA or Cubic or Satan or whoever, I don't think I will be able to trust the system enough to sign up for it again. .

  • Paraphrasing Forest "Oprah" Claypool from his speech at the City Club this morning:

    "YOU get a grace period. YOU get a grace period. YOU get a grace period. EVERYBODY gets a grace period until further notice."

    Old fare media will be accepted indefinitely. Of course, the Visitor Pass machines at the airports are gone. So visitors who wanted to get a 3-day pass for their stay in Chicago still have to get a Ventra Card. The stock of magnetic stripe cards at Jewel and Walgreens is gone, so if you aren't near an 'L' station, you still have to get a Ventra Card. There's only one Transit Card machine at most stations, so if it's not working and you need to reload your card, you still have to get a Ventra Card. (There are two TC machines at O'Hare, when I was there last week, they both had "Out of Order" stickers on them.)

    I went to a balance-transfer-in-the-parks event last month. In order to transfer the balance from my CC to a Ventra Card, they had to keep the CC. I wish I could get it back. But I'll live with a magnetic stripe card for now.

  • Old fare media will be accepted indefinitely.

    That's nice, especially after a certain rather high-level CTA official assured me I could shred my CC+, since he was positive he'd solved my Ventra problem.

    Only he hadn't.

  • I am enrolled (or at least I thought) in the Transit Benefits program through my employer and when I was forced to migrate from CCP to Ventra my transit benefits were supposed go as well for 11/1. However, they did not and no one seems to know why. My HR has been on the phone with both Ventra and CTA about the issue, as I am not the only one this happened to. I also called Ventra and explained and they told me that my employer never sent any money or they are not enrolled, which is far from the truth. I now have $200 dollars ( 2 30-Day passes worth) floating around somewhere and no one knows where.

    CTA finally realized there was a problem and said they would send us affected magnetic cards (the ones that actually work) with our benefits on them plus an extra 7-Day free of charge due to the inconvenience. We received the 7-Days but not transit benefit cards.

    Has this, or a similar situation happened to anybody else? If so, how did you get it resolved? Myself and my HR have no idea what is going on.

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