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CTA, Pace Rolling Out Next Phase In Ventra Transition

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 4, 2013 8:30PM

Photo credit: Chicagoist/Chuck Sudo

The Chicago Transit Authority and Pace are heading into the next phase of their transition to the open fare payment system Ventra starting next week. Riders holding on to Chicago Cards and magnetic farecards until the absolute last minute will find themselves looking at fewer options to add value to the cards before the Dec. 15 target date for the Ventra transition to be complete.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 7, rail station vending machines will no longer sell CTA magnetic stripe stored value cards. Customers still using magnetic stripe cards will be able to reload them until Nov. 15, when those vending machines will be phased out of operation. Customers will still be able to buy magnetic stripe farecards at retail locations that still have them in stock, but that number is steadily dwindling.

Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus customers will no longer be able to add value to their cards at CTA rail station vending machines. CTA recommends Chicago Card holders add sufficient value to their cards before Oct. 7 so they can still use them until they receive and activate their Ventra cards. (Chicago Card Plus holders may still autoload to their accounts until their Ventra cards are activated.)

CTA spokesman Brian Steele told Chicagoist a few weeks back Ventra was sending out an average of 15,000 cards a day and the agency was working with Ventra to reduce the wait times over their phone system to activate cards. Yet when I bought a Ventra card at a CVS store this morning and tried to activate it over the phone I waited an average of 26 minutes before being disconnected. (I called twice.) The activation process was somewhat easier at, but I did not receive an online confirmation confirming my registration and had to log in using my chosen username and password combination to ensure I correctly registered my card. Expect a wait time of 1-2 hours before your full value is recognized on your Ventra.

We know that Ventra is sending out cards by the crate load because some people are receiving dozens of them in the mail. A Cleveland woman received 274 Ventra cards in the mail even though she hasn't lived in Chicago in four years. There have been other reports of people receiving multiple Ventra cards in the mail, so Chicago Card holders waiting for their new Ventra replacements may be waiting a while. The last day Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus holders can use their cards to ride buses and trains is Nov. 14.

Pace, meanwhile, will be offering a new 30-day premium pass for customers using Ventra.

As of Dec. 15 magnetic stripe farecards will no longer work on CTA or Pace. According to numbers provided by CTA's media relations department, over 900,000 people have registered for Ventra and the service now accounts for one out of every three rides on CTA and Pace.