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Ventra Critics Pack CTA Public Hearing

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 12, 2013 2:00PM

2013_2_15_ventra.jpg Monday night’s CTA meeting was attended by nearly 60 people, many of whom used the meeting as an opportunity to voice their concerns about the upcoming Ventra shared fare payment system being implemented by the transit agency and the suburban Pace bus service, and that it unfairly penalizes the poor who may not be able to buy a card.

Last month CTA announced single-ride rail fares for riders who don’t use a Ventra card would cost $3 once the program is launched this summer — $2.25 for the fare, a 25-cent transfer fee and a 50-cent “limited use media fee;” Ventra users would not be affected. Ventra accounts would allow riders to pay for their fares directly from a reloadable card or a credit/debit card. Current Chicago Card holders would have to switch to Ventra in 2014. Ventra would also charge a $5-per-month “dormancy” fee is a card isn’t used for 18 months.

Most of the complaints at Monday night’s hearing were about a lack of public notice and outreach about the program and that this would be the only meeting about Ventra, which CTA’s board will vote on at their Wednesday meeting. (We seem to detect a pattern here: This is the same approach CTA used when they put their “de-crowding” plan in place and voted on their 2013 budget that included hikes to fare passes.) The Tribune quoted Auburn Gresham resident Chrystaline Charity, 41, who said the lack of publicity surrounding the meeting “galling.” Another CTA rider, Ronald Jackson, called the meeting “a dog and pony show.”

Activist Kent Smith said the 75-cent fees added to single-fare rides would hurt low-income riders and that CTA should instead work on “putting a Ventra card in everybody’s hands.” CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson said there’s plenty of time between now and summer for that, as well as to educate riders on how the system works and make any changes.

“This should be the system going forward,“ Peterson told the crowd. Under state law CTA, Pace and Metra must switch to a universal fare system by 2015. Metra is not participating in Ventra, for now.