CTA Ventra report: Upgrades reduce rail tap times; buses next for new software

Software upgrades on Ventra card scanner at rail station turnstiles have proved successful and will be rolled out to all buses by the end of this week, according to the latest CTA Ventra report.

The software upgrades have resulted in Ventra payment transactions being processed with an average speed of 0.6 seconds. Average bus tap times were 1.1 seconds, with software upgrades completed at three of seven CTA bus garages so far. The upgrade continues to be rolled out to the entire bus fleet.

As for the transition from Chicago Card Plus to Ventra, the CTA sent an email survey to an estimated 30,000 Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card users who have been mailed Ventra cards to customer-verified addresses but have not yet activated them. My guess is those folks were waiting so long for their cards to arrive in the mail that they gave up and bought their own elsewhere and activated that one instead.

Here are some more highlights of the Ventra data as of Dec. 1, according to the CTA:

  • More than 66 percent of CTA rides are via Ventra. There are now more than one million Ventra accounts.
  • Call Center performance has improved, with average call wait times remaining below 5 minutes and overall call volume declining 17 percent in November from October.
  • System availability – Ventra readers and vending machines’ uptime – was 99.35 percent at rail station turnstiles and 99.63 percent at wheelchair accessible gates. Ventra vending machines showed an average uptime of 98.34 percent.


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  • As to your guess, the percentage of use would be higher. 33% are still not using it, and we know that cash fares are not accepted on the L (except on a bank card). On the other hand, WGN TV interviewed a woman (I guess at the Logan Square station) who showed her Chicago Card and said she wasn't going to give it up until she had to, as it worked, but Ventra still has problems.

    Nancy Loo also had some footage which she said was of a 77 bus, with someone with a clipboard standing between the entrance and the Ventra reader. She presumed that meant that CTA was independently auditing performance.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I have a serious, off-topic question. How do you know so quickly that I've posted a new story here? I mean, I posted this at 8:41 pm, and you posted this comment less than 10 minutes later.

    Are you getting an email update that quickly, or are you just kinda surfing ChicagoNow and seeing what's being posted? Or is it something else?

    Thanks in advance for your reply!

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Computer on and boredom.

  • Still have my registered Chicago Card (not Plus). They never sent a Ventra card - had to buy my own and activate that one, just as you said. I look forward to seeing the Chicago Tonight special tonight! Still can't believe they won't give you balances on buses. Ugh.

  • So they haven't even finished rolling out the new system and they already have to upgrade the software. Great planning there, CTA!

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Basically, that's the state of software development. If you find a critical defect, you fix it. Given that software is "soft", rolling out a change is generally not a big deal. Software is never "done". Microsoft issues dozens of fixes a month, and some critical fixes are deployed mid-month if necessary.

    That said, they could have certainly conducted a longer beta period and worked out the vast majority of the kinks before inflicting the pain on the everybody. However, when deadlines are politically and/or contract driven, rather than based on actual feedback from the testing, then you get snafu's like this and the healthcare.gov fiasco.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I don't expect software to ever be done. I expect it to work a lot better than this works now on rollout. I had to tap my card 7 times this morning to get it to work on a bus. When it's colder and I'm holding up the line for a couple of minutes because my Ventra card isn't working probably, I expect to be shot for it.

  • I see that CTA is going to spend $492 million to upgrade the O'Hare Line.
    How about less than a million to replace the crossovers at Granville on the busiest line in the city?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    And I forgot, wasn't most of the line in the Kennedy replaced several years ago, bit by bit.
    Or are the CTA apologists & liars going to deny that, just like they denied all the 2005 work on the Ryan?
    And is this another limestone ballast failure?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    There does seem to be a mix of that kind of stuff, like that the ties were replaced between Jeff Park and O'Hare, and in the subway, and the signal system was replaced a couple of years ago. The Tribune article also notes the current project to eliminate slow zones on the Milwaukee L. But I guess that the people at California and Damen are going to get new stations, which probably means that the L itself isn't going to be replaced.

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