On May 1, 2014, CTA commuters no longer have the opportunity to reload or purchase ChicagoCards and commuter train magnetic strip cards due to the move to the new VENTRA CARD. A commuter can use the new Ventra card to purchase CTA and Pace bus rides as well as rides for trains. Ventra Cards and Ventra Tickets are sold at vending machines in rail stations and many retail locations throughout Chicago and the suburbs. THe new vending machines at stations accept cash, credit and debit cards. Busses still accept cash.
In 2011, Cubic Corporation was selected to create a transit system for Chicago, now the biggest effort in North America. Cubic Corporation reported in a news release, "Cubic Transportation Systems, a business unit of San Diego-based Cubic Corporation (NYSE: CUB), has been selected for contract award by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to integrate, deliver, operate and maintain the agency’s next-generation open payments system that will accept bank cards and, ultimately, mobile phone payments. The contract has an estimated value of $454 million, making it the largest automated fare collection contract ever placed in North America. Cubic will operate and maintain the entire system, resulting in an overall 12-year partnership between Cubic and the CTA." So, this 12 year relationship may be an exciting opportunity for Cubic Corporation, but what about individuals using the system.
According the Chicago Sun-Times, "CTA officials insisted Wednesday that the bugs have been wrung out of Ventra but some drivers and riders said multiple taps are still common. Some bus operators worry they will face increased rider abuse due to a requirement that they request cash payment after two card readings of “insufficient funds.’’
The move to the Ventra card is supposed to be a streamlined commuting experience for riders. However, I must say I disagree. I made the switch the Ventra and it hasn't been a pleasant experience. In fact, the customer service experience had been horrible at best. If you are busy commuter like me, you know it's easy to misplace cards. In the past, it was easy to go to the CTA headquarters to have the card replaced instantly. Well, not with Ventra. I lost my card and there was no place to go to instantly replaced my card. I contacted Ventra via their customer service link and no one responded. In fact, it took several months to get a reply. I have a few months worth of passes sitting on the Ventra website because I couldn't get them to transfer the balance to the other card. It's nice to tap the Ventra card and go, but I could do that with my ChicagoCard. Do we need a Mastercard logo? Not really! Do I need a commuter card that looks like a poor replica of a credit card? Not at all! Do I need one card that is difficult to replace and transfer funds to a new card if lost? NO, I DO NOT!!!!. Unfortunately, if you are a commuter in or to the Chicago area the ventra card will be your only option by summer so be prepared for a nice so great experience unless CTA and Ventra make some major changes.