It's starting to get real. The CTA Ventra card transition, that is.
Starting today, you can no longer use your trusty old Chicago Card/Chicago Card plus. And if you bought a magnetic stripe card to get you through for just this occasion, I hope you loaded it with lots of cash, because also beginning today you can no longer add value to that old standby.
And starting July 1, it's over. You won't be able to use the magnetic stripe card.
So what are you waiting for? About 92 percent of all CTA rides are now taken with Ventra cards. The $5 fee to buy a card is waived through July 7 at retailers. Some CTA Ventra events to note:
- Weekly customer service/balance transfer events. Ventra continues to host customer service balance transfer events every Tuesday at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake St., Chicago, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., through June 24. Customers have the opportunity to transfer balances from valid magnetic-stripe cards and Chicago Cards, obtain and register a new Ventra Card (with no upfront purchase fee), and have their questions answered. Assistance is available, too, for customers who have been issued Reduced Fare and Ride Free Permits by the Regional Transportation Authority.
- Community events. Customer service balance transfer events will be held on Saturday, June 7, at the Cicero Public Library, 5225 W. Cermak, Cicero; Wednesday, June 11, at John Marshall High School, 3250 W. Monroe; and Friday, June 20 at Avalon Park Library, 8148 S. Stony Island. Details of all balance transfer events are listed at ventrachicago.com.
- Mail-in option. The CTA will provide the opportunity for customers to mail in certain transit cards, Chicago Cards and magnetic stripe permits to have their balances transferred to registered Ventra card beginning June 1, 2014. Forms and instructions will be made available on buses, in rail stations and online at transitchicago.com. Old farecards will be accepted for a balance transfer to a registered Ventra card through Sept. 1.
- Chicago Card Plus online balance transfers. Chicago Card Plus customers can continue to transfer their balances to a Ventra account online at ventrachicago.com. Chicago Card Plus customers who have not yet transitioned to Ventra can purchase a Ventra Card from a vending machine or retailer and transfer their Chicago Card Plus balance online after registering their new card. That process will also include registration of their card (allows the $5 initial fee to be converted into fare value on their card if purchased from a vending machine) and provides them with the benefits of registration, including balance protection and online account management.
- Students. Chicago Public Schools and other students who have not yet obtained a student Ventra card will need to get one from their school administrator to continue to receive discounted CTA student fares, because students will no longer be able to reload the light blue magnetic stripe Student Reduced Fare Transit Card as of June 1. Students will be able to use any remaining balance left on their old magnetic stripe cards to ride CTA through the end of this school year. The CTA has been working closely with school administrators to help students make the transition to Ventra.
Riders attending balance transfer events 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 cannot be transferred to Ventra cards and must be used up before July 1. Expired fare media will not be accepted. RTA reduced-fare permit holders must bring in their new Ventra RTA Reduced-Fare Permit for a balance transfer.
CTA fare cards eligible for the mail-in balance transfers include unused magnetic stripe 30-day unlimited ride period passes and stored-value fare cards, including magnetic stripe fare cards, Chicago Cards and permits loaded at vending machines. Customers must have a combined minimum of $5 of transit value on one or more cards to have them transferred to Ventra, and balances from no more than eight CTA fare cards can be transferred to Ventra. RTA reduced and free ride customers can also use the mail-in option. Balances will be transferred within 30 days of receipt of mail-in request forms.
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