In my post from Monday (CTA bus driver explains why he must ask for cash fare after 2 Ventra fails), I started out by noting that "there are two sides to every story."
Now the CTA has asked me to give their side of the story:
The Ventra reader screens were upgraded earlier this year to offer customers information about their account; a screen message of “insufficient fare” means a customer’s account doesn’t have adequate funds to cover their ride.
While the method of payment is changing for customers, CTA’s policy on collecting a fare has not. The policy of not allowing customers to board without paying a fare is a longstanding one. It’s no different than with the legacy fare cards that the CTA is currently phasing out. In short, if you don’t pay, you don’t ride.
Finally, the bus operator’s characterization of the incident underscores the need for a firm and clear policy for how bus operators accept Ventra fare payments. Bus operators are the CTA’s ambassadors to customers. Their role includes understanding that Ventra is their fare payment system, just as the legacy fare payment system was. It’s part of their job to collect fares from customers. If a fare payment card is not working, a bus operator can explain why (i.e., insufficient fare) and let the customer know his or her options.
I think the vast majority of CTA Tattler readers agree that no rider should get a free ride. And we all agree that it's the driver's responsibility to collect the fare. I saw a couple people comment that they "insufficient funds" message was erroneous because they have a pass. So what should they do? Do this, says the CTA spokesperson:
It is an extremely rare scenario in which a Ventra card holder with a pass would receive an “insufficient funds” message—it would only happen if they incurred a negative balance on the transit purse (stored value) of the card.
If a customer receives a card-reader message that prevents them from using their card, they should ask the bus operator for assistance. One of the biggest issues we’ve seen in our field observations is that many riders are still trying to touch too quickly, or holding their cards at an angle to the reader, instead of touching the card flat in the middle of the reader.
In such cases the reader can’t read the card. This learning curve was expected, as more than 80 percent of our customers are using contactless cards on transit for the first time. In fact, we posted a video a few months ago to help educate customers. Operators can help make sure that the card is being touched on the reader correctly.
If a customer gets an “insufficient fare” or other message, they can call customer service, who can help them quickly address the issue.
She added this:
For many years, in cases where farecards are not working, our policy has been for drivers to attempt to collect the fare twice before asking for another form of payment. Drivers also have discretion to allow a passenger to ride. Current CTA policy is for operators to request a fare after two “Stop: Insufficient Fare” messages. That means the customer has attempted to pay twice unsuccessfully. This is different than two unsuccessful attempts to read the card (which would result in a “Card Not Read” message). The two messages are distinguished by different color screens and different audio tones.
Again, incidents in which a card won’t work at all are rare, and getting rarer. As you’ve seen from the Ventra performance reports, touch times are down dramatically, system uptime has remained above 99 percent, and currently nearly every 9 out of 10 rides are taken with Ventra, well over a million rides each day.
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