In my nine years of blogging about all things CTA, I have never gotten more email about one topic than Ventra.
Ventra is the new way to pay fares on both the CTA and Pace set to debut this summer. It features a contactless fare card plus an optional debit card – an option that’s getting lots of attention these days. You can buy a Ventra card for $5, register it, and then have the $5 added to your transit account on the card. Or, you can use your own contactless credit/debit card if it has this symbol: .
The CTA is planning a big education campaign about Ventra starting this month. It includes outreach to community groups, block clubs and churches. As part of the campaign, the CTA will gut two Optima buses and outfit them with Ventra machines and other educational materials so riders can actually see Ventra at work. A CTA spokesman has dubbed them “Ventra mobiles.”
One common question is why the change, when the Chicago Card/Plus seems to be working just fine. There are two big reasons why the CTA is switching to Ventra:
- The existing system is aging and approaching obsolescence. The current technology is over 20 years old and must be replaced in the near future anyway. The magnetic strip cards will no longer be manufactured; it’s an aging technology. That’s why credit cards and Jewel cards are going to the contactless technologies. Plus, the chips in Chicago Card/Plus are no longer being made. And that chip is proprietary technology. Whereas, the chip on the Ventra card is part of what’s know as open system.
- State legislation mandates common fare system by 2015.