College students face increase in CTA U-Pass

The big news from last week’s CTA board meeting was the approval of fees for the new Ventra fare-payment system going into effect this summer.

But the board last Wednesday also OK’ed an increase in the cost of the CTA U-Pass. The CTA contracts with 52 area colleges and universities to offer all students discounted rides for a semester. All enrolled students must buy the U-Pass, whether they intend to use it or not. The current price of 86 cents per day for unlimited rides will increase to $1.07, or about $15 per semester.  The CTA notes that on a monthly basis, students will save a minimum of $66 per month over that full-fare price. So that’s a good deal – if you use it.

This fall, the CTA also will expand the program to post-secondary, certificate-granting schools. Currently U-Pass has only been available to schools that award academic degrees.

Students also will participate in the new Ventra system. From the CTA news release:

As CTA transitions to its new Ventra fare payment system this summer, U-Pass program participants this fall will be issued Ventra cards that will replace current U-Pass fare media.

The transit cards will have each student’s name and photo, and will be available for the fall 2013 semester. The new card will be more durable and the only card students will need for transit at all times, even when school is out of session. Full fares will be deducted from the reloadable funds feature on the card when school is out of session.

Students will have the additional benefit of now being able to use their U-Pass on Pace. As a Ventra partner, Pace buses will accept the new U-Pass card and deduct regular Pace fares also beginning this fall.

The new contract is in place through the end of the summer term in 2018 for each participating school. The U-Pass program was created in 2000, when the Chicago Transit Board created the official program after a two-year pilot.


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    I would have preferred Pace offering some sort of minor surcharge to use Ventra U-PASSes instead of having to load money on the card that is technically free on the CTA.

    Also, this still doesn't answer what Pace will do with their Student Advantage program (U-PASS for surburban colleges). EVERYONE is moving to Ventra by 2014, does this mean that Pace will keep using the flaky magnetic transit cards or...what?

  • Odds are, they won't be using the mag cards, because they say they won't have redundant systems once the transition to Ventra is complete. Same as CTA.

    More than likely, you'll have to have one card associated with multiple accounts: the U Pass, the prepaid, and the Student Advantage, sort of like the U Pass Ventra card already being associated with the first two.

    In fact, the one thing that isn't clear is how the senior half and free ride cards will operate, since that's technically the RTA. But, again, you can bet it won't be magnetic strip cards.

    And, at least this time Kevin pointed out that the U Pass was mandatory at a member school, instead of arguing around the point last year.

  • I found it interesting that in today's column, even Hilkevitch is fed up with the CTA's incompetent communications with the passengers.
    If they've lost him, then they've got nobody to stick up for them anymore.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    They lost Hillkevitch about two years ago, but otherwise I agree with you. I was just going to post a link to that story, but since you didn't, it is here.

    You'll also remember that Hilkevitch blew the whistle on the no bid deal to rehab the 3200s. Addendum 1 to the requisition for the 7000 series of cars now states that they will be replaced by 2021 with 2 options totaling 256 cars. Maybe interesting to you is that the rail engineer said he did not want the 5000 interiors and did want cantilevered seats, something you said was possible. This continues unanswered why he won't budge on the maybe 500 5000 series cars still to be delivered, when there were change orders for such things as the insert.

  • In reply to jack:

    I knew the cantilever seats were possible, once I saw them on the 1000 series NF 40 buses.
    But the really baffling thing is why does the CTA persist in ordering such narrow seats when there's room for wider ones.
    I understand someone might want to have only one seat width, but when there's so much room at the ends for wider seats, having two seat sizes isn't so bad for inventory. That Division St. warehouse they bought from National Tea is huge.
    As for not changing the seats on the 500 left to come, I'm guessing they just can't admit to being wrong on the seats. They'll stick with this disaster until there's a real disaster.
    I can't wait for the disaster to come this summer with massively overcrowded trains for the months of the Dan Ryan rebuild.
    Considering all the violence on the South Side, coupled with anger over what we know will be wretched shuttle service to Garfield, I fully expect shootings on the L over the seats!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Given the two reports of assaults on the south side (one Green Line and 43rd, other Red Line at 47th), I think there are other things causing the violence.

    Anyway, the trains will be too crowded to get off a clear shot, except maybe owl.

    But you certainly nailed the "can't admit a mistake" point.

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    In reply to jack:

    I honestly expected the South ends of the Red and Green Lines to be warzones long ago. That is, until the 5000s came along.

    But seriously, the side seats on them suck. I shake my head at what the fools at 567 W Lake Street were thinking.

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