Cubic wins CTA thumbs up on Ventra performance

Cubic Transportation Systems has done a good enough job now on CTA Ventra performance metrics to start receiving payments for its fare collection system. The Tribune reports:

The CTA is “getting ready” to begin paying Cubic for each time Ventra cards are used to pay fares on buses and trains, Steele said. Under the contract, Cubic will receive a variable share of fare revenue equal to about 4.4 cents per full-fare ride using a Ventra card, an additional 2 cents if a transfer is made and a penny more for a second transfer. Minimum CTA payments to Cubic are set at $728,897 per month.

Separately, the CTA has not yet decided when to begin paying Cubic the $2.5 million a month guaranteed over the next 10 years. Once Claypool gives the go-ahead for the monthly payments, it would require extraordinary circumstances for the CTA to legally be able to halt payments, under the contract language.

This sets the stage for the CTA to begin the final phases of the Ventra card rollout – the phases that were delayed because of all the snafus with Ventra in October and November.

That means that soon CTA riders will not be able to add value to the magnetic stripe fare cards or to the Chicago Cards. No date had been set yet, but look for that announcement soon.

As part of that final phase, the CTA will start a mail-in program for riders to transfer remaining balances from Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus cards and from magnetic strip fare cards
If you like this post, please like my Facebook page, and follow me on Twitter.

And, subscribe now to receive CTA Tattler via email. Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Leave a comment
  • So if my Ventra card stops working, which if often the case, will the bus drivers have to throw me off the bus?

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Not if you have some other form of payment:

    Buses still accept cash.
    The Ventra reader accepts Paywave personal credit/debit cards.
    You can carry a back up Ventra card.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    As with the people who say everyone has to have a smart phone, your "if" doesn't hold water.

    Ventra is supposed to be the universal fare payment system. If someone already has a U Pass paid out of their tuition, or paid for a monthly out of transit benefits (has that been straightened out), do you really think that passenger is going to voluntarily pay a $2.25 cash fare for each unlinked trip in addition?

    The driver is going to have to waive the person through, and CTA will be back to square one in trying to get the money out of Cubic.

    And the backup Ventra card idea is stupid if the reader is down, which has been most of the accusations, not that Cubic sent out a dead card.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    I'm not paying cash. I have a 30 day pass. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't work.

    BTW, a bus driver explained the message about my low funds that flashes now and again. It's because I have a pass the reader thinks I need to put money on the card. Ventra customer service couldn't explain that to me--they just told me I was wrong and they weren't going to fix it.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    "...they just told me I was wrong and they weren't going to fix it."

    Apparently that's "good enough."

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    "I'm not paying cash. I have a 30 day pass. If it doesn't work, then it doesn't work."

    Of course, you can just walk after you get kicked off the bus if you would prefer. I thought you were asking for alternatives to getting kicked off the bus when your Ventra card doesn't work.

  • If one has to carry a backup Ventra card this this system is a joke. Most people are trying NOT to carry credit cards. If the system works then fine. If it doesn't then Cubic should take the cost lost. What happens in those situations where people do not have alternative ways to pay and have honestly paid monies on their Ventra card, but the system is not correctly responding.

    I'm a software expert and I've been at this for over 30 years, and I find it in-excusable that the system does not work nearly as well as the old system. It should work as well or better, otherwise, Pubic takes the loss. Another BIG problem that I have with this "new" system is that you have absolutely no idea as to when something expires in the case of adding a 30 day pass to your card for example. With the old system, you knew exactly when it started, and when it would stop.

    With the new setup, you're expected to remember, or to sign-up and let Ventra manage it. Well, guess what? Some of us do not want Ventra to decide when to extract monies from their savings account, for example. Just a silly set up to allow vast amounts of money to be transferred to an account, where someone makes a ton off the interest, under the guise of convenience. Convenience for whom?

    Your regular Visa, MasterCard, etc., works correctly and I for one, think that a Ventra debit card should be held to the same high standard. If not, they why are we standing for it? We may as well just throw our money into the streets.

  • In reply to ESEMAJ01:

    Yes, the system is a joke.

    Somebody sold the CTA on a system that contains bells and whistles on the cutting edge of technology without having verified that the technology is ready to support such a system. And then they went on to implement it with all sorts of bugs and failings. And they made it complicated to learn and cumbersome for occasional riders and visitors.

    But the decision has been made that getting Cubic paid is a top priority. Cubic has fulfilled the requirements based on some easy-to-fudge metrics (automatically let customers through after 2.5 seconds, count the call holding time at 2:00 am in your daily average, not count the long rush hour lines at downtown 'L' stations, etc). So the CTA is going to go through with this fiasco and there is nothing we can do about it.

    At a certain point they are going to have to enforce fare collection.
    A bus driver has no way to verify that you really did add more money or a pass to your card last night, the only information he has is that the card reader says "stop." The CTA can't keep letting everyone who says the magic words "it's a problem with my Ventra card" ride for free and eventually they are going to crack down.

    The system sucks. You have a choice. You can accept that you will be kicked off the bus occasionally to stand in the cold, dialing Ventra customer service and waiting on line to complain and hoping that they will do something about your complaint and then that the update to your account will get transmitted to the Ventra reader on the next bus in time for you to board. Or you can have some sort of back up plan that allows you to get where you are going on time.

    And, yes, having a back up plan costs you money. So does getting to work a couple of hours late. It's the new reality. You can write letters, go to hearings, and dream on that they will junk this abomination. But it appears that the die has been cast and it has been set in stone. You have a few (very few) options to protect yourself. They are inconvenient and they are not free. It's the new reality.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    But you still haven't explained how having a second Ventra card is going to help if the reader or server is down. All you have explained is the in effect "be a fool and stick $2.25 in the farebox." Which doesn't even work at a rapid transit station.

  • In reply to jack:

    Cheryl said her card doesn't work. She didn't say the card reader was down. She asked about a bus driver throwing her off the bus, not about how to board a train.

    Please forgive me if I haven't come up with a solution to every known problem in the universe. I just tried to give her alternatives to getting thrown off the bus if the bus driver tries to do so.

    And, yes, I realize that problems may arise that might call for some other solution. Do you have anything constructive to suggest that would help Cheryl when the bus driver says "pay or get off'?

    I would certainly hope that if the card reader is down that the bus driver would wave passengers on through. But if the problem is that, like many customers have reported, she has enough money in her card but it still say STOP when she taps it, odds are that in the near future they will stop taking her word for it and just letting her through.

    The system is broken. It sucks. I don't have a solution to every problem. Deal with it.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    At least Claypool realized that the "screw the passenger" track ceased to work. Maybe you should too.

    And Cheryl didn't say her card didn't work, but that she got some brief, incomprehensible message when it accepted it.

    BTW, if you want my solution to your imponderable problem, it is use Uber until the city puts it out of business, and then Chicago Carriage Cab. Yellow Cab, or Wolley Cab. After all, some posters here assume that everyone has smart phones, and the cab drivers have a bit of incentive not to treat their passengers as crud. You, on the other hand, are satisfied with so being treated.

  • In reply to jack:

    "And Cheryl didn't say her card didn't work, but that she got some brief, incomprehensible message when it accepted it."

    Are we talking about the same Cheryl who posted the first comment or about what one of the voices in your head said to you? Here is the message to which I responded in its entirety:
    "So if my Ventra card stops working, which if often the case, will the bus drivers have to throw me off the bus?"

    I see nothing in this message about incomprehensible messages or about her card being accepted in spite of them. I proceeded to try to offer suggestions which you then belittled and mocked while offering no help of you own.

    Again, maybe it is one of your imaginary friends that has told you I am satisfied with Ventra. LET ME REPEAT FOR YOU: Ventra sucks. Ventra is unreliable.

    And while I am sure you sincerely believe that sitting in your mom's basement and mocking and belittling people on the internet will accomplish something, I have not seen any results yet.

    Ventra sucks. You have been unable to stop it. It is coming. Keep trying to change it. But make preparations to deal with a sucky system until it changes.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    Well. Mr. Know it All (and not Bullwinkle the Moose, either).

    1. My mother is in a retirement home, so apologize.

    2. You are doing NOTHING to make Ventra better, You are just telling riders to pay double.

    So, either pay double, start walking, or take one of my other suggestions. However, if you do not note, my name is neither Forrest Claypool. Rahm Emanuel, or Sam Cubic.

  • In reply to jack:

    1. I'm glad she's where she can't see what an arrogant bully you've grown up to be. But if she knows, then I am truly sorry for the anguish she must feel.

    2. I am telling people to be prepared for a bad system.
    I suppose that if I were telling people to board up windows before a hurricane, you'd feel that I was trying to make Home Depot rich.

    I have written letters to Rahm saying I won't vote for him if Ventra isn't fixed (yeah, I know, he is probably quaking in his Gucci loafers), I have tried to teach people how to use Ventra, I have tried to offer help to people trying to deal with a bad system. Have you done anything to fix Ventra or help people trying to deal with it? Some people can't walk or stay home, unlike you.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    No. They can call the cops and they can take me to jail, but when my Ventra card fails and the bus driver tells me to get off, I won't.

    And I am never calling Ventra 'customer service' again.

  • Oh, there's one more phase: "Look into my eyes, you are getting sleepy. There never was a problem with Ventra. It has always been perfect. No one ever had any bad experiences."

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    I'm still surprised that someone told Claypool to tell Tammy Chase not to say that.

  • Olaf and Jack: you are pushing my rules of no personal attacks. Stop it.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    I knew it was getting close. However, it seems like real bullies like district299reader and Olaf1 thinks it is fair game to attack me personally. Olaf's of 13 hours ago should be deleted by you, since it is pure insult. There is nothing there that has to do with transit policy.

  • So, you have a backup plan. What if you have an additional card and that does not work. What then? What happens if you do not have a dollar amount? What happens when they stop taking paper money, which will happen?

    I find it absolutely amazing just how lame we've become as a society. This is exactly the reason that this kind of crap is thrown at us. This is why regulation was a good thing. A company could not have gotten away with such a crappy system under those circumstances. This is what we get by allowing companies to oversee themselves. What happens is a system designed to cheat people and not be accountable and trust me, the CTA is not without fault in this mess. It's all about saving money, doing it cheap and getting as much from the consumer as possible, anyway possible.And as long as the majority of us continue to put up with it, well, this is what we'll get and what we'll deserve. Very sad indeed.

  • In reply to ESEMAJ01:

    To be more precise, this is what we get when we allow government-backed monopolies to pretend to oversee suppliers. It's a double monopoly situation in which the customer does not have what is known as the "right of exit" (to immediately take their business elsewhere). There is only the pretense that someone at the top is looking out for your best interest just because they won an election. All that bad stuff can't have happened and it can't be their fault.

    A competitive market with reasonable regulation (not micromanagement) is far more accountable to the end user. Even if mass transportation can't be run according to a fully competitive model, we should at least look at building in checks and balances, more transparency, and some forms of customer choice and feedback.

  • In reply to ESEMAJ01:

    Extremely well put. However, unlike CCWriter, I wouldn't put it as because of being a monopoly, but because of that the transit agencies do not depend on customer satisfaction for their existence, sort of like Dominick's was, even though there were competitors also gaining on them. So long as the transit authorities' reasons for existence are to get taxpayer "funding" and protect jobs, that's sufficient, unless it gets so bad that politicians feel threatened. Somehow, Emanuel must have felt threatened by the Cubic mess, although usually he does not appear threatened.

    But, as the side discussion with Scooter indicates, Metra is much worse, and certainly doesn't get it either.

    As I mentioned to [deleted] apparently Uber and the cab drivers have some incentive to serve the customer.

  • In reply to jack:

    All good points. However, in my opinion competition vs. monopoly and incentive for customer satisfaction are not different issues but part of the same dynamic.

    A monopoly can and will simply ignore customer dissatisfaction because its customers have nowhere else to go, whereas taking one's business elsewhere is a method of registering dissatisfaction that cannot be ignored. Politicians may or may not speak for customer satisfaction depending on whether it suits their real motives and status.

    A business that has competitors may for a period of time find ways to avoid being customer-responsive and delivering a good price-value relationship, but eventually (as it did with Dominick's) loss of customers catches up with them.

    (Notice how since the days when Dominick's and Jewel dominated the Chicago market between them, more chains have proliferated--a trend in the opposite direction from consolidation into monopoly. The transition is a little rough, but the end result is more options for more people. Food deserts are an unfortunate exception, but the prospects for some chain to fill the gap may at least be greater with more chains.)

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Last first, I'll agree with your analysis of the grocery business, except that I'm convinced that the food deserts are a result of lack of demand, in that there aren't any in Mexican or Korean neighborhoods, for instance. In fact, I was surprised that someone took over the Dominick's near me, but someone did, even though Mariano's developer just got the go ahead down the street.

    I'll agree to a certain extent on monopolies [I wonder what {deleted} would recommend with my current problems with Blue Cross, i.e take the $600 hit], but as I stated to you before, transit is not a government monopoly because the government wanted to get into it, but because private enterprise couldn't afford to run it, starting in Chicago in about 1927. You can compare that to the IRS, which is solely a government function, and has about as bad customer service.

    The other main difference, which is related to my point that Uber and cabs are competitive alternatives is that transit considers each customer a 50% loss, and hence doesn't care if it has fewer of them. That may support your point about government vs. private monopolies, in that, for instance, the phone companies' landline business took it in the chops once cable and competitive cell phones ate into their former monopoly, and similarly, competitive municipal aggregation seems to have forced out coal fired electrical generation.

  • In reply to jack:

    And UPS and FedEx forced USPS to get better at package deliviery. They even farm out that last leg to USPS in some cases.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    But USPS can't make money on its core mission of delivering letters, and you have basically confirmed my impression of the competitive situation between CTA and cabs--the population that can afford cabs takes them, while CTA caters to those who need a toilet. Maybe not entirely, but as I said before, nobody is going to establish a competitive transit system.

  • In reply to jack:

    Since I can't remember which thread you & I were going after Metra on, I'm getting a good laugh & cry over Metra's insane PR efforts this last week.
    Getting the Sun-Times to write about the 80 year old A2 Interlocker at Kinzie & Western as Metra's biggest switch problem, when all of my Metra email alerts have been that the Lake St Interlocker for all three UP lines has been the problem. Lake St. has been a UP problem for several years now, while the A2 screwed up only once a couple of years ago to delay empty trains heading in the evening rush from the Western Ave. coach yards.
    Funny, when the C&NW ran the lines, I don't remember such problems at Lake St.
    I do remember the hundred or so of blue gas jets that were the switch heaters though.

    I also rode in the last car of a Green Line train last Wed. & there was the third rail ice melting equipment on the seats at the end of the car. I never saw that before. I guess the sleet scrapers just aren't that effective, especially when they fall off onto the street, which is how I got an almost new one I use as a paperweight.

Leave a comment