After figuratively and literally calling the Ventra maker's boss on the carpet today, CTA President Forrest Claypool put off indefinitely some key transition dates for riders switching to Ventra card.
Claypool wouldn't say say how long those key transition dates would be postponed. At the very least, riders can bet that the Nov. 15 milestone will be pushed back. That means that:
- Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus WILL be accepted on CTA buses and trains, and on Pace buses.
- Customers WILL be able to add value to stored value magnetic stripe cards. Though machines may be in short supply.
Claypool appeared at the City Club today and demanded more accountability from Cubic Transportation Systems, the maker of the Ventra fare system. Claypool called to the stage Richard Wunderle, Cubic Transportation Senior Vice President and General Manager of North American Operations. I'm sure he wanted to spread the heat around. And why not? Wunderle acknowledged the rollout issues and pledged improved performance.
Here are some of the service improvement areas to be addressed, according to a CTA news release:
Better phone coverage on customer service line. The CTA has directed Cubic to partner with a leading national call center company to expand capacity for peak call volume demand and to monitor calls for quality. At the CTA’s direction, Cubic already has tripled the number of operators to 300, reducing the average wait time to an average of about five minutes on Monday, Nov. 4—more than 80 percent less than one month ago. (I called the service center at 6 p.m. tonight and got to an agent immediately.)
Customers charged for multiple taps, related to delay between tap and "go" signal. Customers were reporting tapping their card and not getting an immediate “go” so they would tap again or move to a different lane to tap, which would result in being charged more than once. To address the issue, Cubic this week updated the Ventra reader software with improvements that will process transactions with 2.5 seconds or less 99 percent of the time.
In addition, readers now include a “processing” screen that lets the customer know that the transaction is processing, and a “low balance” screen that lets the customer know that their balance is under $10. Third, a small change to the CTA’s “passback” rule will allow customers to continue to have passback privileges (up to 7 rides per Ventra card) but will require a turn of the turnstile per tap to lower the chance of being charged more than once. These changes will provide customers with more information needed to make a decision whether to wait or re-tap and will significantly reduce incidents of being charged for multiple taps.
Ventra reader malfunctions. Customers have reported long lines at rail stations, primarily during rush periods and delays boarding buses. The CTA’s analysis of data shows that 5% of transactions are taking more than 2.5 seconds, the desired standard.
To address the issue, the CTA directed Cubic to make software updates to ensure 99 percent of Ventra readers process transactions in 2.5 seconds or less. By mid-November, upgrades to Ventra reader software should improve transaction/boarding times.
Also, let me say right here that I was wrong. I wrote Sunday: "Union asks CTA to delay Ventra rollout; dream on!" I guess I'm not a very good clairvoyant.