Schedule for CTA Ventra card transition released; some students to use them next week

College students going back to school next week will be the first CTA customers to use the new contactless Ventra transit payment cards, the CTA announced today. Other select riders can begin using the card during the week of Aug. 19.

Students attending Rush Medical School, Westwood College of Technology and Northwestern University School of Law are among the first at universities to receive Ventra cards. Additional universities participating in the U-Pass program will receive their cards later in the month in time for the start of their fall semesters.

Chicago Card Plus and Chicago Card registered riders who have validated their addresses will begin receiving their informational packets and cards the week of Aug. 19. Once their cards are activated, they can begin using the Ventra system immediately.

A number of readers commented on my Sunday post that they had not yet gotten an email from the CTA asking them to make sure their account information is up-to-date. Well, sorry about that – but by all means log in and do it regardless of whether you got an email. Or call  (888) YOUR-CTA.

Ventra cards can be activated by calling (877) NOW VENTRA. Chicago Card Plus customers’ balances or products will be automatically transferred to the Ventra system upon activation of Ventra cards.

Customers who received their Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus through pretax transit benefit programs from their employers will begin receiving notification of their transition to Ventra starting in September.

The CTA says these customer groups will be the only ones able to purchase products or add value until September. All remaining CTA and Pace customers will be able to use the new system beginning Sept. 9, when Ventra cards will be sold at retail locations and at rail stations. Between Aug. 5 and Sept. 9, Ventra machines will be available only to reload Ventra value; riders will not be able to obtain new Ventra cards until Sept. 9.

The CTA also provided the following information about customer events and the Ventra transition calendar:

Upcoming customer events

In addition to dozens of community meetings, street festivals and other events this summer at which CTA and Pace have been providing an introduction to Ventra, the CTA and Pace will soon announce dates and locations to allow customers to obtain and register Ventra cards with a waived initial $5 one-time fee at community locations. The CTA and Pace encourage customers to “spend it down” – to begin spending down fare balances on current fare media in the transition to the new fare payment system.

The Ventra card has an initial $5 purchase cost, which is immediately refunded to the card for transit use upon registration online or by phone.

Customers who pay with magnetic stripe fare cards and unregistered Chicago Card customers will be able to transfer balances to their Ventra cards at select locations starting in September and throughout the transition to Ventra. However, spending down balances on current cards remains the simplest method of transitioning to Ventra.

Transitioning to new system

Below is a calendar summary of upcoming events:


  • Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card customers who have received their Ventra cards can begin using Ventra system the week of Aug. 19 one they have activated their cards.
  • The first U-Pass customers will begin using the system the week of Aug. 5.
  • Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card customers who have received their Ventra cards can begin using Ventra system upon receipt and activation of the cards.
  • CPS students will receive their Ventra transit cards during school orientation prior to the first day of school on Aug. 26.
  • Customers who use magnetic stripe fare cards should begin to spend down balances.
  • There will be fewer Express Vending Machines accepting credit cards and Visitor Pass Machines at select rail stations.

Starting in September:

  • Ventra is available to all CTA and Pace customers on Sept. 9.
  • New Chicago Cards will no longer be issued; balances can still be spent or transferred to Ventra.
  • There will be fewer Transit Card Vending machines to purchase and load fare value at rail stations.
  • No more Express Vending machines and Visitor Pass machines at rail stations.
  • The Regional Transportation Authority will begin issuing new Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit permits to seniors and people with disabilities currently enrolled in those programs.

By the end of October:

  • Chicago Card customers can no longer add or reload transit value at vending machines; balances on cards can still be used or transferred to Ventra.
  • Magnetic stripe customers can no longer buy new transit cards at station vending machines, but can continue to reload their existing cards.
  • Magnetic stripe cards will no longer be sold at retail locations; retailers will have fewer magnetic stripe unlimited-ride period passes (1-day, 3-day, 7-day and 30-day) passes in stock.
  • Fewer Transit Card Vending machines


  • Customers can no longer reload stored value cards.
  • No more functioning Transit Card Vending machines at CTA stations or offsite locations; these will be replaced with Ventra vending machines.
  • Customers can no longer purchase new period passes.
  • Balances on unlimited ride period passes need to be used up.
  • RTA will no longer distribute the old Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit permits.


  • Magnetic stripe farecards (including stored value or period passes) will be no longer accepted.
  • Balance transfers of stored value on remaining valid magnetic stripe cards can be transferred to Ventra through March 2014.
  • Transfers can no longer be purchased on Pace using cash, subject to Pace Board approval, but can be purchased with Ventra Cards or registered bankcards.
  • All Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit customers must use their new Ventra permits.

Starting Aug. 12, customers can visit the new Ventra Customer Service Center at 165 N. Jefferson Street in Chicago to learn more about Ventra. Sales of Ventra cards at that location will begin Sept. 9.


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  • Prediction: Bend over and squeal for the first three months. Will reader work or won't it. I have a Ventra card but the bus don't have the reader. I have a fare card but the bus don't have a reader. Carry Ventra, Mag Stripe card and cash or you are walking home . Oink Oink Oink. Someone will be making money in the meantime. It will not be you. In the future someone will be cleaning up on fees. It will not be you. CTA going Oink Oink way.

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    Not to worry. Even the Niles Free Bus has been equipped with Ventra card readers. They're everywhere!

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    Sure bud, whatever you say.

    a. Every bus I've been on for the last 2 months already had the ventra reader installed. In the last week or 2, they've been uncovered and some are already turned on.
    b. No bus is going to have the mag stripe reader removed prior to the December cutoff. CTA is not replacing the mag readers with ventra ones, they're adding ventra ones and later taking the mag readers and chicago card readers out. The buses have all 3 readers right now (mag, chicago card and ventra).
    c. on the rare occasion I've boarded a bus where the chicago card reader didn't work, I wasn't kicked off, I was given a free ride, so I don't think people will be walking.

  • This is still confusing. I get the transit benefit at work and my CC+ card expires August 19th. I did make sure the CTA has my correct contact information and that's the only reason I know when my card expires.

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    Will they still have unlimited 1 day and 3 day passes with Ventra system?

  • In reply to Alice Wellington:

    Sure, especially since they jacked up the cost this year. The only difference is that it will be on a Ventra card, instead of mag card, which, in 2014, will require a $5 deposit, or probably you can associate it with another card.

  • In reply to Alice Wellington:

    They will have disposable 1-day passes available at all train stations. They will be just like the $3 one-ride tickets, but not subject to the 50 cent disposable media fee.

    1-day passes as well as 3-, 7-, and 30-day passes can be added to a Ventra card at all locations, as well as online and over the phone.
    You will also be able to associate them with your personal contactless credit card if you register an account.

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    In reply to Olaf1:

    So will I be able to add this pass to pay-as-you-go Ventra card, or will I need to get a second card just for that purpose? Currently, I use pay-as-you-go Chicago Card Plus, and buy an unlimited pass when I need to run a lot of errands.

    This is so confusing.

  • In reply to Alice Wellington:

    You should go to a Ventra meeting and find out.

    Theoretically, more than one account can be put on a card, but if you have two transit accounts on one card, how is the machine going to know which one to debit?

  • FYI, the "validated" shipping address is associated with each card, and *not* the personal information associated with the account. The shipping address is accessed through the 'Edit Card Info' link next to each card listed on the account.

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