How the CTA will earn $500K in fees from Ventra deal

When CTA President Forrest Claypool told a Chicago Tonight audience that the CTA would earn $500,000 in fees from the Ventra card, he made it sound like the bulk of that money would come from fees charged for use of the debit card.

Not so, says a CTA spokesperson. He contacted me last week to set the record straight. He said Claypool had misunderstood the question.

Actually, the bulk of those fees will come from advertising revenue generated by big digital screens that will be part of the Ventra vending machines. Other ads will appear on the back of receipts issued by the Ventra machines.

Another source of fees come from interchange fees -transaction fees that payment processors charge to retailers. These are fees that retailers pay to processors. The businesses pay these, not customers.

The smallest portion of fees earned from the Ventra deal will for portions of the monthly dormancy fees, part of the $1.50 ATM withdrawal fees, and a part of the $5 fee paid for lost or stolen card replacements. All of these fees are shared with Cubic Transportation Systems.

Meanwhile, the chair of the state House Mass Transit Committee will hold a hearing Monday to question CTA officials about the Ventra system and how it will work. The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the Bilandic Building in Chicago, 160 N. LaSalle St., Room C-600.


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  • Since they've been so very forthcoming about all of this so far (not), I'm just going to assume this guy is lying through his teeth.

    When will the CTA roll out its version of the payday loan?

  • That's it?
    Just half a million, per year I assume!
    What a ripoff of the CTA let alone the riders!

    The public is getting screwed six ways to Sunday on this one.
    I can't wait to find out who's really benefiting from this deal.
    Which friends of Daley, Rahm, Madigan, Cullerton, Berrios & all the rest of the connected pols are in on the consultant fees.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The last sentence is possible.

    However, that's still a half million more than CTA is getting now, as I don't see any ads on the current tin cans or CTA Visa cards.

    So, how much do you want CTA to gouge Cheryl's poor for?

    Other than that, between Claypool not knowing what he was saying on TV and the revenue director not knowing that MetaBank had already waived some fees, how many more ignoramuses will this episode uncover?

  • Does CTA President Forrest Claypool ever make a statement that does not need later clarification?

    I guess it is not what you know but who you know. True in politics , business, and life. No exceptions.

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    Read today's Dilbert.

    Other than that, Claypool's picture is in the dictionary next to the definition of "corporate speak."

  • In reply to jack:

    Exactly. Thanks jack

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    Today's Tribune report on the hearing indicates that both Claypool and the legislators lived up to expectations.

    Too bad that the expectations are that low, though.

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    I'm sorry if this has been asked before, but there's been so much news and PR talk about Ventra that I can't seem to find a few clear answers for these 2 questions.

    1) From what I've gathered, 1 ride will be $2.25 if you use a Ventra card. If you stick with the regular 1-ride pass, it'll be $3. Is this true?

    2) Will I still be able to buy a regular 30-day (from a currency exchange/Walgreens) and avoid the whole Ventra debacle? Will a 30-day cost more if I don't go through Ventra?

  • In reply to Sonka:

    Sonka, some answers:

    1. Correct. If you don't buy a Ventra card for $5 or have your own debit card that works with those machines, yuou will have to buy a one-ride pass for $3. This is only for trains.

    2. Yes and no. You will be able to get a 30-day pass, but it has to be on the Ventra card or your own compatible debit card. The reason I say yes is because the Ventra cards may well be available at Walgreen's, etc., I just don't know yet.

  • Sonka, in response to your questions:
    1) If you use a Ventra card, 1 ride on the L will be $2.25, one ride on a CTA bus will be $2, one ride on Pace will be $1.75. The first transfer will be $.25 and the second transfer will be free. Just like today.

    You will still be able to pay in cash when you board a bus: $2.25 cash on CTA buses, $1.75 cash on Pace buses. Just like today.

    As you know, today you cannot pay cash at an 'L' turnstile. If you arrive at an 'L' station without a Pass or Transit Card, you have to go to the vending machine and put in at least $2.25 and get a Transit Card to use in the turnstile. After the Ventra system goes into effect, when you arrive at a CTA 'L' station without a pass or Ventra card, you will have two choices:
    a) put $3 into the machine and get a one-time card. The one-time card will include two transfers at no additional charge.
    b) get a Ventra card from the machine. Getting a Ventra card will cost at least $5, but you can keep using it over and over every time you ride a bus or train. You can get your $5 back by phoning the CTA or going online to register your card. If you don't have a phone handy, you will have to add enough money to the Ventra card to pay a fare ($2.25 at the 'L' station) in order to use it. (You can still call the CTA up to 90 days later to get your $5 back.)

    2) The currently announced plans say that 3-day, 7-day, and 30-day passes will be available only on the Ventra card. (1-day passes will still be available as a separate card.) So, yes, you will have to get a Ventra card to get a 30-day pass. You can then go to any reload location, put money in the machine, tap your Ventra card against the machine, and you will instantly have a 30-day pass. The reload locations will accept cash or credit cards. Every 'L' station will be a reload location and they say there will be 2000 additional reload locations at stores throughout the region. It has not been announced if Walgreens will be a reload location.

    You will also have the OPTION to log into the Ventra web site and purchase a 30-day pass to be added to your Ventra card using a credit/debit card. You will also have the OPTION to sign up for automatic reloads of a 30-day pass charged to your credit/debit card like you do with the Chicago Card Plus today.

    Don't let everyone scare you about this card. JUST DON'T SIGN UP FOR THE DEBIT CARD OPTION and you will find that things don't work much different than they do today with Transit Cards or Chicago Cards. Some web site called made up this $188 figure that the Tribune quoted and everyone else is quoting. They made very dubious assumptions to arrive at $188. But in any case, unless you go out of your way to activate the debit card option, none of the fees everyone is complaining about will apply to you.

  • In reply to VernaB:

    Thanks for the help Verna. But you are wrong on one count: "3-day, 7-day, and 30-day passes will be available only on the Ventra card."

    I was told last week by a CTA spokesperson that you could tie passes to your debit card.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Yes, you are absolutely right. The CTA has, in fact, even published that information. For the sake of simplicity I was ignoring the option to use your own personal credit/debit card. I was also ignoring that option because so many people seem terrified to give the CTA their bank information that I didn't want to add worries about that.

    In fact, there was another omission in what I said: Someone who doesn't have a Ventra card and doesn't want to pay $3 for a one-time use card, can just tap their RFID-equipped credit/debit card against a bus farebox or a train station turnstile and board. The fare will be the same as if they used a Ventra card.

    That also assumes that you have an RFID-equipped credit/debit card. The only major issuer universally equipping their cards with an RFID chip is Chase (a bunch of smaller banks are too). And the US RFID chips are not compatible with the Chip and PIN system used in non-US cards, so tourists arriving at O'Hare (for example) won't be able to use their cards in this way.

  • In reply to VernaB:

    Didn't know that Chase was the only major bank with the RFID chip. Glad I'm a customer!

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Universally. Others have experimented with a limited number of card lines. I don't know their future plans.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Kevin Zolk listed some other brands of cards with the chip. But you and I are in the same position.

    I also saw one of the logs at Produce World today, but didn't use that card.

  • VernaB, when you say 'register' what exactly does that entail? I would like to know what information I am expected to give the CTA in order to register.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    From the CTA web site:

    "It take just a few minutes to call the 800 number, go online or visit the CTA sales center at 567 W. Lake St. Registration involves providing basic info: name, address, phone number, DOB and card number; e-mail address is optional. If a person walks into a retail location to get a Ventra Card, they can call the 800 number or use their smartphone to quickly register the card, then walk outside and board a bus/train—the value is immediately added.

    "The biggest benefit of registering: balance protection if card is lost or stolen. Currently, if a customer loses a mag-stripe card or an unregistered Chicago Card, any value is lost."

    Obviously, they are not going to be checking ID when you call or go to their web site. If you want to get your $5 back and don't mind giving up the balance protection benefit, may I suggest you use:
    Rahm Emanuel
    121 N. LaSalle Street
    Chicago, Illinois 60602
    DOB: 1/1/1911

    Out-of-town addresses are also acceptable and they won't be checking your birthday. If you give them a fake birthday, write it down. (I certainly wouldn't give them my real birthday.) I suspect they will be using your birthday as a sort of password when you call to report your card lost or stolen. Beware that if you use someone else's name, that person will be able to call in and report your card stolen (if they know there is a card out there in their name).

  • In reply to VernaB:

    Love it. But I am using Ronald Reagan's name since he and his ilk are the ones that sold us down this river to the plastic banksters and their fees for all.

  • So the homeless don't get the cards?

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    The homeless can find a payphone (they are hard to find, but if you don't have a phone, you can find one), call up and give the address of a homeless shelter, a church, city hall, a liquor store, the Des Moines Register, the White House, or just a made up address anywhere in the world. NOBODY IS GOING TO CHECK.

    Or if you have an objection to registering even with fake information, YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO REGISTER. It will cost you $5 not to register. Is your moral integrity worth $5 to you?

  • Yeah, right. A pay phone. 1600 Pennsylvania Av.

    If the address isn't necessary, why is the CTA asking for one at registration?

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    So that when you call up to say your card has been stolen, they know where to send a replacement card. If they didn't have an address on file, anybody could call up and say "My name is Cheryl. I lost my card. Please cancel the old card and send a new one to ...."

  • In reply to VernaB:

    Are the homeless paying fares now, Cheryl?

  • In reply to VernaB:

    So if I've registered as living at 1600 Pennsylvania Av and I call and say I've lost my card, they'll send the new one to the White House.

    And btw, before anyone suggests the homeless use computers at the public libraries to register (so that when they lose a card, the new one can be sent where?) you have to have an address to have a library card. You have to have a library card to use the computers.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Before we have to answer any of this, how many homeless people are loading $100 on their Chicago Cards for monthly passes now, Cheryl?

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    And do the public libraries require a library card to use the computer, as opposed to check out books?

  • In reply to jack:

    Some libraries do require a card to use their computers.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Why would anybody suggest that they use a computer at a library when they can register by making a free phone call (from a payphone, for example)?

  • In reply to VernaB:

    There aren't as many payphones as there once were.

    However, Cheryl is grasping at straws in that she hasn't demonstrated that there is a sizable number of homeless who (a) pay CTA fares, (b) load large amounts of money on cards, and hence (c) give a care if the card is lost or stolen.

    If they are loading money on mag stripe cards, there is no refund for a lost card. That's why I mentioned the monthly passes. If they now want to protect balances on their Chicago Card, if any is in their possession, they have to register that, using the optional registration process.

    Assuming that a homeless person has a card and can't register it to the address of the nearest shelter, such a person can put $10 on it, call up, get the deposit credited, spend, say $9.50 on fares, and if the card is then lost or stolen, repeat the process, being out only 50 cents, and then panhandle to get the 50 cents through other means.

    There is no reason to base transit policy on the lowest of the lowest common denominator, just as there is no reason to follow darkwing's assumption that everyone has smart phones and evades taxes in forming policy.

  • In reply to jack:

    I pointed out previously that there aren't as many payphones as there once were. There are 78 public library branches in Chicago. I bet there are more phones than that in Chicago. (I haven't been in a library branch in a long time, do they still have phones?)

    Maybe advocates for the poor could collect Ventra cards that have $0 balance left on them and distribute them to the homeless. There is no limit on the number of Ventra cards you can buy, so maybe donors could buy the cards, use up the $5, donate the card, and just get themselves a new one. I'm sure there will also be $0 balance Ventra cards littering the streets and train stations just like with used Transit cards.

    In fact, library staff who are sick of the homeless (who don't know how to use computers) coming in trying to register Ventra cards could just keep a stack of $0 balance Ventra cards around to give out.

  • In reply to VernaB:

    It appears that you are engaged in more grasping with regard to the unlikely.

    Even if donors exhausted the value they put on their registered cards, you or Cheryl are/is assuming that the homeless are going to reload them with value.

    And I'm not sure what risk such a donor of a registered card would have, with regard to identity theft or the like.

  • In reply to jack:

    So are you saying that the homeless don't ride the CTA or that they jump turnstiles and force their way onto buses? In either case, the homeless would not need Ventra cards any more than they needed Transit Cards to jump turnstiles and the whole homeless problem is solved.

    Actually, there are working people who may be temporarily (or even long term) homeless who may need to ride a bus or train to work. You may even find them sleeping on trains.

    Getting a Ventra card registered for anyone who wants one is not an insurmountable problem.

    Geez, man. Don't use your real name if you are worried about ID theft.

  • VernaB:

    For the most part, yes to your first sentence.

    For the working poor, I would put them under the category of being able to register at a shelter. About the same issue is whether they can register to vote, which they usually can (according to reports of lawsuits).

    For your Geez sentence, what were the donors of the exhausted cards supposed to register them under before exhausting them?

  • In reply to jack:

    I already gave you one specific example of what to register it under earlier in the thread. Then later I gave some more general suggestions.
    Feel free to read. Or if that is too much trouble, just use your imagination. I'm sure you can think of a fake name and address if you try real hard.

  • In reply to VernaB:

    We are getting so far afield that it makes no sense, but why would one make up a fake name for the period in which they want theft protection until such time as they exhaust the card and then donate it? Take that as a rhetorical question.

    And, for that matter, the working poor could use their employment address to register the card. The boss doesn't have to know.

  • Homeless, poor, staying off the grid? Right now you can walk into an L station, put cash in a machine, ride a train for $2.25, a bus for $2.00, transfer for $0.25 and then ride for up to two hours transferring to your hearts content, and then reload the card over and over until the expiration date on that bit of mag striped card board, no ups, so extras. Yes if you lose the card and it has cash on it you are SOL. But now you have an extra step to get that on going low rider price of getting a bit of plastic for $5 up front. You have to get that piece of plastic somewhere and to get it you have to give up some info. In other words, no tickey no washey. There is no knowledge that does not lead to power.

    And don't lay that 1-7-30 day pass jive on me. That can and cannot be a deal and depends on your riding volume in that period.

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    There will be a tickey, it costey $3.00.

  • In reply to jack:

    That's more than $2.50. Ain't it?

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    Sure. The laundry is now charging you to print the ticket. And also to clean your socks, whether you want it or not.

    But there was the meaningless hearing over these increases, which were preordained in the Nov. 2011 CTA ordinance.

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