CTA Ventra card: What to do if you STILL haven't received yours

The month of October was filled with stories of people who didn't get their CTA Ventra card for a full month after they received an email to expect it in the mail in seven-to-10 days.

But now it's November. And some folks STILL haven't gotten their cards.

And the CTA has some advice for them. From the CTA Ventra page:

Customers who still have not received their Ventra cards can:

  • Buy a Ventra card from a Ventra vending machine or retail outlet; register to get the $5 one-time card cost refunded as transit value.
  • Spend down Chicago Card Plus balance; call 888-YOUR-CTA to cease autoload function on Chicago Card Plus.
  • For customers who wish to transfer their remaining Chicago Card Plus balances, they can bring their Ventra card and their Chicago Card Plus card along with a photo ID to a balance transfer event or Ventra customer service center at 165 N. Jefferson (Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.) and balance will be manually transferred over.
  • Coming soon: Ventrachicago.com will allow Chicago Card Plus customers the ability to have their balances transferred online to Ventra by providing their Chicago Card Plus and Ventra card information.

As an additional convenience to customers, Ventra will add 11 new balance transfer events beginning Wednesday, Nov. 6, at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake, to allow customers to transfer their balances from legacy fare cards including Chicago Card, Chicago Card Plus and magnetic stripe cards to registered Ventra cards. View complete schedule.

Customers may bring a maximum of five eligible fare media cards at a time with a combined minimum of five dollars in transit value on the cards to transfer to a registered Ventra card. No unlimited-ride passes (1-,3-,7-, or 30-day) will be transferred, nor will balances on expired fare cards be transferred.

Reduced fare card holders must bring in new Ventra reduced fare permits to transfer balance, as reduced fare permits will not be issued at balance transfer events.



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  • This ongoing problem of rolling out a new system -- after creating expectations of a smooth, clock-work transition -- is yet another example of how private sector businesses don't really work much better than government run bureaucracies. Whether in this case it is hubris, group-think, self-deception or too much faith in their forecast models, the Ventra firm failed with a project much smaller in scale than rolling out the Affordable Care Act website. The next time someone tries to tell me that the private sector can do a better job of providing services than government, I'm going to point at Ventra.

  • In reply to PredictiveAnalytics:

    Someone posted elsewhere "how come CTA has all these problems" to which the answer is that some projects worked out, but there are colossal failures, both attributable to the private vendors and lack of contract oversight on CTA's part.

    The one incredulous statement attributed to Cubic in the Tribune is "The top corporate official ... offered that his company was caught flat-footed because it failed to anticipate how quickly commuters would switch from old fare cards to Ventra." Geez, when CTA basically made it mandatory within a 2 month window, what did he expect?

  • In reply to PredictiveAnalytics:

    This is far worse than a simple3 rolling out of a new system. We've done this plenty of times at the non-profit I work for and it's never been the colossal mess up Ventra has been.

  • In reply to PredictiveAnalytics:

    Private sector businesses work a lot better if they are not in a monopoly situation, acting as an arm of government. In this case, all these "private-public partnerships" do is compound the problem, which is that decisions are made politically so everyone is insulated from pressure to adapt and please the actual customers. If they waste money they can always get more, and it seems they can't be fired. In addition, you have more ways for things to go wrong, and more opportunities to obfuscate instead of taking your lumps.

    If you have competition, that means your customers have what is known as the "right of exit" so that if they don't like the deal they're getting, they can simply take their business elsewhere. Competitors keep each other honest, and if they don't, there'll always be another competitor swooping in to tempt the customers away with better quality or lower prices as long as there's any room for improvement.

    Failures and stupid decisions can still happen, but customer payback can be pretty devastating and doesn't require as much investigative reporting or class action lawsuits. Think about what happened to Netflix and to Bank of America when they tried to introduce unpopular fees. There were other options, so the mere threat of lost business caused them to reverse their decisions. If bad decisions result in serious harm to the company, the execs responsible usually get handed their walking papers. Somehow they don't get away with blaming somebody else and insisting they're there only to save us from nefarious forces and things would be even worse without them.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    I don't think this is restricted to the public sector. My experience on a condo board is that contractors recommended by management generally do a lousy job, and the property manager does a minimal job, or thinks she is there to tell the board what the contractor says, instead of vice versa.

    My board president has taken the attitude that she has to do the manager's work and subscribe to Angie's List. I suppose that once once of these contractors stiffs you, the only recourse (short of calling the lawyers, as Claypool says he is doing) is to give them bad reviews on Angie's List and Yelp.

    Emanuel's statement to the effect of "we fixed the Red Line, we'll fix this" shows what the real priority is...the Red Line appeared fixed on time and on budget, but this mess is taking away his talking point.

    And I bet that Cubic is going to have trouble getting further contracts, as it is in competition with other firms (Xerox got the Philadelphia contract, and its rollout with regard to subways and regional rail is phased into 2015). CTA doesn't have regional rail, but this couldn't be done in 2 or 3 months.

  • Kevin, thanks for everything you have done to try to mitigate this... nonsense. You are the only person involved who shouldn't be fired. Too bad you don't get paid for this.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Thank you Cheryl. I have gotten at least 50 emails from people asking for help because they're not getting it from Ventra or the CTA. I've tried to answer as many as I can, but I simply can't answer all, and don't have ALL the answers.

    But to all you who appreciate my work, feel free to click on second Google ad on the right, under "Subscribe by mail." I will get the penny or two that click generates!

  • According to neighbors, RTA has yet to send out the Ride Free & I should have received one of the half-price senior Ventra cards.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The combination of that, plus the Metra Link Up Pass and Transit Benefits "up against the deadline" problems shows that this was poorly thought out.

    For instance, someone posted on chicagobus.org whether his senior mother should buy a Ventra Card at Jewel, to which the answer appeared to be "no, unless she wants to pay full fare."

    Again, this shows poor coordination among the myriad transit agencies, but Emanuel's solution seems to be "abolish the RTA" and let Claypool run amok.

  • What amazing news from the CTA, Kevin! And only, what, a month later than they should have announced these things? Furthermore, the basic suggestion to simply buy a Ventra card from the machine, register it, and spend down your Chicago Card balance was being discussed here on the Tattler, when it would have been useful for even more people to be aware of.

    Oh, but the CTA could not admit at that point that anything was not working out according to what passed for a plan, so forget that. Pretending everything's just fine is so much more...oh, words fail me.

    By the way, I never did get that new card in the mail. Will be really funny if it ever shows up!

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Incompetents never admit their incompetence.

    However, the "spend down" was there from the start. The question always was why that was repeated in CTA materials when balance transfer events were also announced.

    The one thing that is new here is that Chicago Card Plus users now can have balances transferred at those events, or supposedly on the Web. Up to now, the line has been that that could not be done, and the only alternative was to wait for and activate the Ventra card, then the balance would transfer automatically. Somebody must have figured that Chicago Card Plus holders are not getting their Ventra cards if they have not already.

  • Now comes the newest Ventra idiocy.
    It appears that people are being charged when exiting from the front door.
    CTA claims that the RFID limit is 1.75 inches. But when I do exit at the front [when I need to have the bus kneel] I go nowhere near that close to the card reader, so I'm baffled as to how this happens other than women who keep the card in their purses & possibly rest the purse on the yellow handrail near the reader.
    Chicago Tribune

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Read that. Something is strange when some reports are that you have to tap the logo (or green dot) exactly, and then those like this.

    Maybe the paranoia those who sell RFID resistant metal card cases use has a basis.

  • I've worked as a software engineer for 25+ years, with the last 10 primarily in project management. I've worked on numerous large systems, and this system, as well as the healthcare system, point out the ridiculousness of having fixed date deliverables. Yes, it's nice to have a target date. However, in both these cases it appears that final integration, performance, and load testing were done late in the game. This is not unusual for large, "waterfall" type projects. The finished software is delivered to the testers way too late, as the managers do not want to shift the end date due to political, or financial reasons. As a result, they do a half-ass job testing, and well, this is what we get.

    In both cases, there is plenty of evidence already that the cake was not fully baked. The cut-off date should have been pushed back to allow for proper testing. This is a 100% management decision. I've worked on my share of "late" projects. It's not fun, but you don't want to deploy software that's not ready for prime time.

    At a minimum, they should have scheduled an extended beta period to allow a small subset of riders to test the system, and provide feedback.

  • Has anyone in the Transit Benefit Program seen their money show up on their Ventra account yet from the October employer funding?

    My employer deducted the $100 from my pay in October, submitted it as usual via the Chicago Card Plus transit benefit employer website and it was deducted from our payroll bank account. The $100 was always credited on the last day of the month on my CCP account and when my 30-day pass expired on the 15th of the month following, it would auto reload a new 30-day pass and deduct the $100 from my CCP account.

    As of today, my CCP account shows it was closed and tranferred to Ventra on 10/15. There is no record of $100 being credited on my old CCP account OR my new Ventra account. My current 30-day pass expires on 11/15. It looks like my $100 is currently "lost" and I'll be buying a new 30-day pass on 11/16 on my own.

    I'm really mad I didn't hold off transferring to Ventra, since it looks like I could have continued to use my CCP now that the deadlines have been indefinitely postponed! This Ventra rollout has been terrible. I knew the transit benefits program would get completely messed up.

  • In reply to Matt:

    Some benefits administrator posted on the CTA Tattler that the CCP employer website was removed and benefits administrators had to submit a spreadsheet. So, I guess you have to ask your benefits administrator.

  • In reply to jack:

    Our administrator did the last funding submission in mid-October several days before she received the spreadsheet from Ventra. Everyone was asked to activate their Ventra cards by 10/25, so nobody has an active CCP now. After repeated called to Ventra and the CTA this afternoon, management at our company is so angry that a large sum of employee funds is seemingly now in limbo they are threatening to cancel transit benefits altogether.

    My Ventra account just shows the 30-day pass that transferred over from CCP, with an expiration of 11/15. There is nothing showing "in queue." I guess I better cancel the deduction before my next paycheck! Thanks Ventra for making transit benefits and the tax savings unusable!

  • In reply to Matt:

    This is exactly why I cancelled my transit benefit for the time being. They didn't honor the last two weeks of my September 30 day pass, I had no expectation they would load my October pass correctly.

  • In reply to Matt:

    My 30-day pass showed up as being "in the queue" a week or so ago, with the October pass shown underneath it with its expiration date. My previous pass expired yesterday and when I checked this morning, the October pass had been removed, the "in queue" notice was gone and the new expiration date was posted, so it worked for me at least.

    Our transit benefit administrator has had a hell of a time with them, though. She never received the spreadsheet that Jack mentions, and had to call them to have them send it to her. There still isn't a website or anything for her to work with for December, and they haven't provided her with a way to actually pay them the money for the November passes!

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    In reply to villafan:

    Similar issue. It shows up on my Ventra account in the queue section. I tried to cancel the benefit but didn't do it in time it seems.

    My current problem is I can't get a clear answer if I can transfer this 30 day pass to a random ventra card I buy at a kiosk. I was told weeks ago, on the one call that went though to Ventra, that I can transfer funds from my current CCP but my transit benefit pass CANNOT be transferred.

    If I could get a clear answer I'd just go buy a new card and transfer the pass. I'm beyond fed up with trying to deal with Ventra.

  • In reply to Hemmerly:

    Is your current 30-day pass on your CCP? Totally guessing if this will work, but if I were you, I would use the CCP 30-day pass this month, cancel your transit benefit program before they take next month's order, buy a new ventra card, and sign up again with transit benefit as though you were joining for the first time. That's the only way around it that I can think of, and I'm not sure if that would work -- maybe someone else can chime in. They are now saying that you can transfer CCP balances if you go to one of the balance transfer events, but I imagine that it's much riskier that way as far as whether the balance transfers correctly, or if that even works with a CCP that has been linked to the transit benefit program.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to villafan:

    The next month was already paid and was assigned to the Ventra account unfortunately. I was too late canceling my benefit. I see it on the Ventra account with no card.

    I had hoped to cancel for November/December and pay per ride. With vacations and what not I won't be using $100 worth of rides. Alas I missed the boat on this one.

    At this point I just need Ventra to confirm that I'll be able to access that pass already on the account with a new card.

  • In reply to Hemmerly:

    Yikes. If you're on Twitter, I would try tweeting them. They seem to be replying to some of those within a reasonable time frame.

  • About that maximum of 5 cards at a Ventra balance transfer event. I was at the Washington Park event and a guy ahead of me had like 30-40 transit cards. When I left, they were counting the amounts and were transferring his balance.

  • I had 2 CC+ cards. The one without transit benefits transferred over fine. However, the card with the transit benefits showed the balance transferring out of my CC+ account, but it was never picked up by Ventra. After several attempts, the Ventra agent could not find the incoming transfer, but eventually credited the amount to my Ventra account. Wondering if this has happened to others.

  • Transit benefits is now officially a disaster at our company. We've discovered many employee's 30-day passes have now expired and since the October reload amounts haven't happened yet, they are having to shell out cash for rides in the meantime. CTA nor Ventra knows where the funds are or how to get them to post to Ventra accounts. City council needs to really get on this since the mayor is ultimately the only one that can demand more action from the CTA. I want my Chicago Card Plus back!

    Yesterday evening I had my first double charge. I called the 800 number and I was told it would take at least 48 hours for a rep to get back to me due to high volume. They took down my contact information. What a joke!

  • In reply to Matt:

    1. Cit y council doesn't have jurisdiction over CTA. There is such a thing as the Chicago Transit Board (ha ha).

    2. You should also consider the possibility that your company never got the money to CTA and is holding out on you, especially if the problem is company-wide.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes, but the city council could pressure Rahm (supposedly) who could then in turn pressure the CTA board and Claypool.

    The funds cleared our payroll bank account. So yep, the CTA took thousands in employee transit deferrals and the CTA nor Ventra can tell us where the funds are sitting or who can get things straightened out. Meanwhile employees are now essentially paying double for their transit.

    Both the CTA employer transit benefits program help line and Ventra are so overwhelmed by the mess, it looks like it will be weeks until its straightened out. It looks like our principals are going to shut down the program at least temporarily for CTA/Ventra employees.

    I blame the fools that rolled out a completely unrealistic timeline for this new system. I've heard rumors that Accenture was behind the software development and consulting for Ventra/Cubic.

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