CTA Ventra update: Troubles with transit benefit program

Here’s an update on the latest troubles and travails for the CTA Ventra card rollout.

We’ll start with the photo I saw featured today on the Chicagoist One Shot feature.

Photo by Deborah McCoy/Facebook

Photo by Deborah McCoy/Facebook

The message here at the Logan Square Blue Line station is spelled out using magnetic stripe farecards.

Meanwhile, it seems the latest troubles with the Ventra rollout have played out for the transit benefit program users – no doubt since those approximately 50,000 CTA card users were among the last to be transitioned to Ventra.

The Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch reported last Friday that program administrators at some employers found employee info from other employers loaded into their Ventra transit benefits website.

And in his Monday Getting Around column, Hilkevitch noted double charges for $100 monthly passes. He also found, “after reading the fine print in the contract for the CTA Ventra transit benefit program, that it contains an extra cost — monthly “load fees” — that could be handed down to consumers.”

These problems come on top of the usual reports from riders of late or non-existent cards coming in the mail.

I lucked upon a great Ventra customer service rep last week who said she was proactively calling people using the transit benefit program who had not yet activated their cards. She helped me, then I gave her phone number to at least three other office mates.She got them going with Ventra too, though in two instances they had to buy cards since they hadn’t yet come in the mail.

I’ll be interested to see how long the CTA puts off the Nov. 15 deadline, when Chicago Cards could no longer be used, and mag stripe sales were to have stopped. I predict by Dec. 15 those restrictions will go into effect.

UPDATE: As Jack alluded to in a comment, Mayor Emanuel appeared with CTA President Forrest Claypool and Board Chair Terry Peterson at the 95th Street Red Line station Tuesday. The Trib reports the mayor “acknowledges frustration with Ventra.” Good to know he’s not living under a rock!

On Tuesday, the mayor declined to rank the Ventra difficulties in relation to the other crises his administration has encountered. Instead, Emanuel vented on the performance of Ventra contractor Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. and reiterated that he intends to hold the company accountable.

“As a user of it as recently as yesterday, I use it, I am frustrated that other people — that the company did not live up to their expectation,” Emanuel said.



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  • Pace has said that they will keep their mag stripe readers in service at least until next July -- that's what they have to do in order to support their extension of 10 Ride and Transfer Cards until July. I think they might have more inside information about the prospects for fixing Ventra than any of us do.

    Even if they can solve the card migration problems and get all CCP balances and benefits transferred to Ventra accounts by December, they still haven't addresses the fundamental flaw of their technology: the card readers have to "call home" to process each transaction. The nighty lines at the Clark/Lake station have to be addressed, too. And I am looking forward to see whether there will again be lines hundreds of people long in front of the Ventra machines at O'Hare as visitors come in for the holidays.

  • In that the word from Claypool is that there are definite metrics to be met, I'm not putting bets on any quick cutover date.

    Maybe you can sit on the Ventra customer service oxymoron phone line and see if they answer in 5 minutes, for example.

  • It is also quite clear from tonight's Tribune that Ventra will be ready when Emanuel tells Claypool to say that it is. Maybe the weekly updates will tell us something, but probably not.

    Note that Emanuel and the two puppets said just enough at the 95th station drawing unveiling, but didn't answer any questions. Emanuel probably doesn't like those questions overshadowing him personally rebuilding that station.

  • Best new tactic is C.T.A. employees are now trained to act like customers don't know how to hold a card in front of a reader. Never mind that the reader is displaying "Processing............" ad infinitum, or they play the "show me the card" to prove to the security cameras on the bus that the card is there but the "Vulture Card" system asleep.

  • Regardless of if CTA claims to have put off the deadline on the previous payment system, I have been forced off my Chicago Card Plus. CTA told my employer that all pre-tax benefits programs had to be switched to Ventra and they already complied. While Ventra honored the remaining 30 day pass period transferred from my Chicago Card Plus, as soon as it ended, they no longer acknowledged that my employer benefits was towards a 30 day pass. The website instead says "No passes found under this transit account." Ventra will not respond to a contact request issued through the website. Also, calling Ventra five times did not provide any meaningful results. Most of the time I was on hold or speaking to someone that works for a third-party message center instead of Ventra and does not have the authority to fix anything. The one time I got through to a "Ventra Service Specialist," she pointed out the call quality degraded when I was transferred from the message center and then she hung up on me.

    It should be noted that Alderman Waguespack and Alderman Fioretti have indicated they will be holding hearings about the CTA/Ventra $454 million contract. Alderman Waguespack can be reached at 773-248-1330. Alderman Fioretti can be reached at 312-263-9273.

  • In reply to fluke:

    Does it acknowledge that $100 in transit value has been added to your account? If so, you can use that $100 to buy a 30-day pass. You can do that right on the web site with no need to call them.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    Olaf is right. You should be able to use the Ventra as the 30-day pass. I have bee able to use mine with no problems.

  • In reply to fluke:

    Also, the alderman are only for show, as even the Tribune acknowledges that CTA is a "nominally independent" agency under the Mayor's thumb, but the city council does not have jurisdiction over it.

    From reports, these two are ineffective even when the city council does have jurisdiction.

    So, save your telephone calling units or minutes, since that circus is a waste of time. Maybe you can find a number for the Mayor's office, but it looks like he already got the message to give to his two puppets (Grover and Herry).

  • In reply to fluke:

    When I first activated my Ventra card and transferred my Chicago Card Plus balance, which was a monthly pass, it acted as a regular pass. After several unsuccessful calls plus 30 minutes in line at the Ventra offices on Jefferson (never got near to the front of the line), I decided to wait until my next month's transit benefits hit. A monthly pass was showing in the queue and my Ventra card became a monthly pass on November 1. No problems since.

    When I went to the Ventra offices, I was advised that I was in the right spot to have my card switched to the monthly pass option. I just didn't have the time to do it then.

  • Oh, Emanuel's frustrated, is he? Poor Rahm.

    And notice how he deflects all blame onto Cubic and says they won't get paid a dime etc. eetc.

    What of his own "other people" at the CTA? Did they not have any responsibllities to make this thing work? Are they still getting paid and not fired? Why?

    P.S. Nice art!

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    The first step is to get a contract administrator to make sure that Cubic performs its contract. It seems clear that Cubic did not have the intention to do so until someone threatened not to pay. So, I'm not arguing with that.

    Of course, Peterson (definitely) and Claypool should be out, as well as anyone else who had responsibility either on the contract or the "blame the customer" PR campaign before Emanuel saw the light. However, since they are useful puppets of da Mare, he is keeping them. Cookie Monster didn't get fired just because Elmo came along.

  • The card reader on a 22 got stuck on Go this morning. I counted 27 people get on without being able to tap their card.

    My place of work is outsourcing the management of our transit benefit. I just got off the phone with the company charged with managing this for us. I had to switch over to them this week in order for my benefit to kick in January 2. I had to fake cry at some poor guy to get him to admit that yes, I can and should sign up now.

    Now I just get to sit back and hope this actually works.

  • In the joke of the day, Tribune says that the RTA is going to probe Ventra.

  • fb_avatar

    Don't like the system... I have to worry day & night... My 14 y/o has been getting kicked off busses left and right for his card not working on his way to and from schoo. He gets discouraged and winds up walking through dangerous neighborhoods because of this. I call ventra, and an answering service located in Boston answers. The people actually agree with our anger and not out of good customer service they talk crap about the bad system too. I think Chicago is more than they bargained for. Bring ChicagoCard back!!

  • I'm trying to get a deactivated credit card off of my new ventra account. It won't let me delete it because "auto load" is activated, but I can't figure out how deactivate the auto load. Meanwhile, Ventra has now hire message takers that don't know a thing aboiut the Ventra website. These message takers are there only to get callers out of the queue line. Supposedly someone will call me back, but I've left two voice messages and a website request and no response yet after a week. Then when they do call, I won't be near the computer. Has anyone gotten to take the automated survey? What a clusterf**k!

  • In reply to Edgewater Roadie:

    What happens when you go to "Update Funding Source" on the Account Settings page? Can you change it there?

  • I am enrolled (or at least I thought) in the Transit Benefits program through my employer and when I was forced to migrate from CCP to Ventra my transit benefits were supposed go as well for 11/1. However, they did not and no one seems to know why. My HR has been on the phone with both Ventra and CTA about the issue, as I am not the only one this happened to. I also called Ventra and explained and they told me that my employer never sent any money or they are not enrolled, which is far from the truth. I now have $200 dollars ( 2 30-Day passes worth) floating around somewhere and no one knows where.

    CTA finally realized there was a problem and said they would send us affected magnetic cards (the ones that actually work) with our benefits on them plus an extra 7-Day free of charge due to the inconvenience. We received the 7-Days but not transit benefit cards.

    Has this, or a similar situation happened to anybody else? If so, how did you get it resolved? Myself and my HR have no idea what is going on.

  • In reply to Jay M:

    Look at prior posts; someone claimed to have eventually received a 30 day and 7 day mag cards.

  • How are we supposed to deal with the double charges?

    Ventra points at CTA, CTA points at Ventra. CTA customer service said to just dispute it with my bank. My company's HR person can't get the CTA to acknowledge her.

  • In reply to JeffGarrett:

    It is supposedly Ventra (Cubic oxymoron customer service), which has the server that racks up all the charges on card taps.

    However, since you bring up your HR person, other posters here indicate that CTA independently screwed up that and was making restitution via magnetic stripe cards, so I guess transit benefits will have to be resolved through them.

    Dispute it with the bank seems the only thing that works, though.

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