The final transition begins: CTA to accept Ventra cards only by July 1

CTA riders have three-and-a-half months to get a Ventra card and begin using it. The CTA announced Friday that on July 1 only Ventra cards will be accepted for fare payment. Of course, bus riders will still be able to pay with cash, but forget about the magnetic stripe cards and the Chicago Cards.

Here's the transition timetable, in three phases:

  • May 1: Customers can no longer buy magnetic stripe cards or autoload/reload Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus
  • June 1: Customers can no longer reload magnetic stripe cards or use Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus
  • July 1: Customers can no longer use magnetic stripe cards. Pace customers paying with cash will no longer be issued a Transfer Card. All customers will be transitioned to Ventra.

New CTA Ventra readerAfter halting what was a failing transition to the Ventra fare-payment system in early November, the CTA now feels confident enough in Cubic Transportation Systems to continue with the final transition. Cubic, which is getting nearly half-a-billion dollars to the roll out Ventra card.

Specifically, Cubic has improved Ventra tap times and customer service.

Chicago Card Plus customers enrolled in the CTA’s Transit Benefits through their employers and O’Hare employees using the temporary O’Hare smart card are transitioning the first week of April, and will receive specific instructions through their employers.

CTA plans some "balance-transfer events" to help customers move balances on old fare media to the Ventra card. These events will also assist customers who have been issued Reduced Fare and Ride Free Permits by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).

Balance transfer customers may bring a maximum of five eligible fare media cards with a combined minimum of $5 in transit value. Fare media that is eligible for balance transfers includes CTA and Pace stored value magnetic stripe full-fare and reduced-fare cards and Chicago Cards. Unlimited ride 1-day, 3-day, 7-day and 30-day passes, reduced fare passes, and passes sold in bulk or any expired fare media cannot be transferred to Ventra cards and must be used up. RTA reduced-fare permit holders must bring in new Ventra RTA reduced-fare permit for balance transfer.

Pace will announce a series of Ventra Card distribution events to be held at transit centers and key suburban transfer locations at which customers can receive a free Ventra Card (with in-person registration) and have their questions answered.


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    Getting on buses with Ventra is still a pain in the ass. It seems like there's always at least one or two people who have cards that aren't accepted. They tap the card four or five times before it says GO.
    I have a handicapped card and there are times it doesn't work.
    CTA and Ventra both say the transition is now working fine but they aren't fooling the people using the system.

  • In reply to Howard Moore:

    I take the 152 bus and the Blue line most of the time. Two or three times a week I have to tap 4 to 8 times before the card is recognized, regardless of whether it is a train or bus. It's a crappy system. We can only hope it is crappy enough to completely fail during rush hour a few more times to get any real lasting change.

  • Since this past fall, I can't think of one time that I've had a bad experience using a Ventra card, either on bus or rail. One or two times on rail, the reader has asked me me to tap again, but I haven't been double charged or "gone negative" or anything like that.

    I think it's time to move forward with the permanent switch to Ventra. I give a lot of credit to CTA for holding Cubic accountable and improving the system A LOT since last fall.

  • In reply to ambrosewilde:

    Is that really a matter for credit? If they had planned ahead so that the launch was not royally messed up, then I would give them lots of credit. But they did not. Instead they apparently just assumed everything would go fine without direction on their part, and we, not they, bore the brunt of the problems. We are supposed to be eternally grateful for being rescued after the fact? Sorry, no. I say none of that, or at any rate very little, should have happened. What were the CTA managers being paid to do in the first place?

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Unfortunately, that seems standard operating procedure today. The current health care meltdown seems not so much at as at Blue Cross "Consumer Advocates," who in March provide a much lower level of service than Cubic.

    The surprise is that Claypool eventually got off the "blame the customer" track, but apparently now has installed a "Blame the Driver" approach, rather than auditing Cubic's numbers.However, this time I figure it is going to be like the seats on the 5000s, i.e., no matter what you say, this is the schedule, maybe despite what jonpsuedonmym said above.

  • And BTW, I am still pissed off that the card readers at the turnstiles won't tell you what the balance on your card is. They can set it up so the reader will give you a notice that your balance is low (among other "warnings"), but won't show you your balance? Neither CTA nor Ventra will ever get any praise from me while they provide a service that is designed to screw over its users.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    I don't know if money information should be demonstrated in that public of a place; that would certainly encourage theft (the joker behind you can peek over your shoulder and see that you still have $95.25 on your card). There is, of course, the web solution, but maybe a more private reader (such as the ones that told you how many rides you had on a mag stripe transit card) might be a solution.

  • In reply to jack:

    Balance information was demonstrated at the turnstiles for years with the old cards. But you do have a good point - these transit cards can also be credit cards. That changes things a bit. I had been thinking Ventra as one of those upgrades where you pay more for less functionality. (Not showing balance at turnstile). Will think about this one more. Thanks.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    The Ventra card is just like I-pass. The new I-pass readers do not give you your balance either and there is no outrage. If you want to know your balance bad enough log into your account. If you have your Ventra card on auto-reload why does it matter?

  • In reply to Richard S.:

    Not everyone cares to have it on auto-reload.

  • In reply to Richard S.:

    There is no way I am trusting Ventra or the CTA with my bank information. And it sucks that they now know my real name and they can track my movement throughout the city.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    Bank information? You provide a credit card, not bank account. This is no different than 1000's of accounts that allow auto-pay via credit card.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Except that "Ventra" found all sorts of ways of double charging credit and checking accounts. Of course, no different than another organization I mentioned yesterday. Either way, you eventually have to complain to the bank to get the charges reversed.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Okay, I'm not giving them my bank or credit card information. Tomato, potato. Either way, I have heard horror stories about trying to clean up their habitual overcharging habits. I pay cash at the boxes at el stations and I always print the receipt just in case.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    I still remember a serious issue that happened with Chicago Cards a few years back. A co-worker found she was being double-charged on her credit card. She reported the problem several times to CTA and got the royal brushoff. Couldn't be anything on their end, must be her mistake. She knew she was right--and it turned out she was. It came out a few weeks later that a CTA employee had been embezzling small amounts from customers' credit card accounts.

    Any organization can have an occasional bad apple. But I fault the CTA for their attitude of refusal to believe and respect the customer. I haven't seen any evidence that that attitude has changed. I can expect that the default position will always be stonewalling--only to change if extreme force is applied, and pain and suffering never compensated.

    Will not give the CTA anything but cash, and never the benefit of the doubt. They have trained me too well.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    Well then I guess you will just have to pay cash when you use the bus or train

  • In reply to Richard S.:

    Well, except you can't pay with cash on the train. Well, you can in a way - you can buy a $3 fare card. But that's not too smart.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    You can put various other types of cash into the TVM, including onto regular Ventra cards.

    And basically one is paying fare roulette whatever method of payment is used.

  • I will admit that the cards are being read faster now, but I still don't like Ventra. What was wrong with the Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus? What was wrong with the 'stripe' transit cards? Not a damn thing. What if you're not a regular CTA rider? You have to get a stupid Ventra card too!

    I switched my Chicago Card Plus over to Ventra the end of October. When you do the transaction online, you get an email saying that your credit card was charged. I didn't start getting the confirmation emails until the end of MARCH. Less than a month ago. I used to automatically get the Chicago Card Plus automatically charged at the end of the month and I would get the confirmation emails--no problem. No way would I do that with Ventra--I don't trust them. I go online at the end of the month and do the credit card charge myself. Don't trust Ventra, or they will try to rob you blind.

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