Signs of Ventra CTA fare readers proliferating as launch nears

As the CTA prepares to roll out its new Ventra fare-payment system this summer, we see more evidence of preparedness.

Earlier this year, rail station turnstiles were outfitted with the devices to be used to scan the contact-less cards. More recently, they have been installed on buses. Plus, the CTA has started running announcements about Ventra on buses, according to a RedEye report.

In addition, Ventra videos have been popping up on YouTube. The one featured here shows a rider testing a “live” card reader with Google Wallet. The device recognizes the payment device, but doesn’t debit the account.

This YouTube user shows a Ventra reader “Not in Use” on a bus.

You can follow @VentraChicago on Twitter and view the website


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    I already posted this on a previous thread, but I don't think anyone saw it.

    Does anyone know the actual start date for when Ventra cards can be bought and used? June? July?

  • And does anyone know the final date by which Ventra cards must be bought and we can no longer use the Chicago Cards?

    I ask, because they made me renew my Chicago Card through 2015, even though the Ventra introduction date was near. Not that there's money involved, but the process is still a hassle.

  • How would I be able to get through if my cell phone is broke?

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    The Ventra system will require a plastic card, similar to the current Chicago Card. It will not work with a phone, although it could if Ventra released an app for it, or allowed one to register the card with an NFC-based payment application, e.g. Google Wallet.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Congratulations for posting inconsistent posts. I guess you don't buy what the demos purport to show.

    All the Ventra literature indicates that it will eventually work with smart phones.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes, *eventually*. The Ventra system is obviously NFC-based, which is why it will handshake with Google Wallet. This interaction is at a protocol level. The initial rollout will require a Ventra card.

    *When* Ventra releases an app, it will work on a phone. I haven't seen an offical release date for an app, however.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    But the question raised in the videos is whether it has to be a "Ventra app" or any "credit card app" will work. If it is truly an open standards system, the latter would work. Cf. the previous discussion on multiple RFID cards where some people were under the misconception that one would have to register a bank card to have it work on the Ventra system.

  • CC and Peter: Still no actual date on when Ventra will be launched. CC, you didn't have to pay a fee to get a new card, right?

    ibill: If you cellphone is broke you're screwed. Better have a backup card.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Nope, no fee. I did have to take the time to go through the order process online, and carefully phase out the old one so the money on it would end up at $0 by the alleged expiration date. Don't see why they had to have me go through the exercise when the new one was about to debut.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    P.S. I guess I was assuming that the cards were already rolled out, since the devices are already in place. My mistake.

  • Some jerk steals my cell phone and now he can get on the bus on my dime too? Double kick in the face.

  • In reply to Nirvana91:

    With the thefts of cell phones being that prevalent, you better have a way of locking the apps. I'm sure a $2.00 bus ride is the least some thief can get out of your Google Wallet if he figured out how to use it.

    As I mentioned earlier, and for which I took some heat, I wonder if someone should really flash their cell phones in L stations. For that matter, if they are using an open media credit card, whether they should be showing that, either, although one should have the bank's number to cancel it immediately upon theft.

  • In reply to jack:

    Hey, for that matter it's never made sense to me how pulling out your wallet and opening it up on a street corner to get out your ATM card to swipe in the device to get into the secure ATM lobby is supposed to enhance your security. Seems to me it makes you rather vulnerable at that moment.

  • In reply to Nirvana91:

    The Tribune has a story about how two of the more nanny AGs want smart phone manufacturers to include kill switches to deter theft, like the gps in them doesn't.

  • In reply to Nirvana91:

    Sigh. What these stupid demos fail to show is that the Google Wallet app has a 4-digit PIN that is required to open the app, and access the cards. In addition, your phone should have a screen lock w/ PIN or swipe.

    If you're silly enough to deactivate both security features on the phone and app, then you probably deserve to have your accounts emptied when your phone is stolen.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Great. Now I am standing behind some knucklehead at a turn style while they fumble and tap numbers into their stinkin' cell phone. Might as well get on a bus while someone tries the 5 cards they have in their pocket.

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    In reply to Nirvana91:

    I'm hesitant about even using a bankcard. I usually keep my CTA pass in a front pocket, separate from my wallet.

    With Ventra, it would probably wise to do that.

  • I currently get a 30-day pass from my employer (tax-free transit). I understand that I will be able to load 30 days onto the Ventra card, but I can't find any info regarding tax-free transit on the Ventra FAQs. Anyone out there got the details?

  • In reply to SunnysideChris:

    It shouldn't be any different than loading it on a Chicago Card Plus. From your description, is the employer doing something different, such as giving out mag strip cards? In that case, since the magnetic media are being abolished, the employer will have to give you some sort of RFID card or your transit benefits will have to be associated with some sort of other account that has an RFID card (such as an existing debit/ATM card).


    Metra grapples with contract to revamp fare collection

    Officials concerned about consultant's low cost

    June 08, 2013 | By Richard Wronski Chicago Tribune reporter

    Metra is considering hiring a firm for $825,000 to figure out how to revamp its fare payment structure and integrate it with the CTA's new Ventra system, but — in a switch — officials are worried that the consultant might be charging too little.

    Some Metra board members balked at awarding the contract until several concerns were addressed, including whether the proposed consultant had the expertise necessary for the job.

    The contract with the firm recommended by Metra's staff, LTK Engineering Services, based in Ambler, Pa., was so far below the $2.4 million proposal from CH2M HILL, of Englewood, Colo., that board members were alarmed.

    "It is disturbing to me that I see this price differential," said Norman Carlson, a railroad consultant by profession. "I am concerned they underbid it." He feared the company would come back to Metra after winning the contract with additional charges.

    The officials decided to postpone a decision on the contract for two weeks until other board members could weigh in.

    Whichever consultant Metra hires, it will play a crucial role in bringing Metra's fare payment system into the 21st century, and putting the commuter rail agency in sync with its sister agencies, the CTA and Pace.

    State law requires that the transit agencies implement a "regional" fare payment system by Jan. 1, 2015.

    "The system must allow consumers to use contactless credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards to pay for all fixed-route public transportation services," according to the statute.

    Metra staffers recommended LTK from six firms to help transition from the agency's paper-based ticketing system.

    Metra CEO Alex Clifford said the consultant Metra hires will provide "a comprehensive look at getting cash off the trains and a way to accept credit cards in the future, and if there are smartphones (for ticketing) in our future, too."

    The CTA is scheduled to roll out its Ventra fare-collection system this summer. The contactless card will replace the popular Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus for CTA and Pace riders next year.

    Ventra will have a debit card option offering customers an opportunity to pay bills onlineand to use the debit account for direct deposits and other cashless transactions, the CTA says.

    But Ventra has come under strong criticism after the Tribune revealed a host of hidden fees associated with the cards.

    The CTA awarded a $454 million contract to Cubic Transportation Systems in November 2011 to create the open fare system, and Pace joined the contract last year.

    According to the CTA, Metra was offered the opportunity to participate in the Ventra program, but the commuter railroad declined.

    That's not the same version Clifford offered Friday. While Metra may ultimately participate in the Ventra system, the agency was "an afterthought" during the CTA's planning with Cubic, he said.

    "The CTA went on its journey without Metra aboard," Clifford said.

    Twitter @richwronski

  • I haven't gotten on a bus in the last three months that didn't have the Ventra thing installed.

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