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Transit Union Calls For Delay In Ventra Transition Until The System Works

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 1, 2013 4:45PM

Photo credit: Stephanie Barto

The head of the union representing Chicago Transit Authority’s rail employees is calling for the agency to postpone the rollout of Ventra until it can “work out all the kinks” in the shared fare payment system.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly said employees at rail stations have become the target of verbal abuse by riders and fears worse could happen if CTA stands firm on its timetable to have Ventra fully in place by Dec. 15. Riders have had problems getting through turnstiles and boarding buses because Ventra fare card readers fail to recognize the new farecards. Kelly isn't exaggerating; I can vouch from personal experience seeing riders give rail station employees earfuls about faulty Ventra cards and readers. These workers are unwitting targets for the ire that should be going to CTA president Forrest Claypool and the agency's board of directors.

There have also been numerous complaints of multiple charges to Ventra cards, long wait times in the Ventra’s customer service phone queues to activate new farecards and a lawsuit seeking class action status has been filed against CTA and Ventra’s owner Cubic Transportation Systems. CTA, meanwhile, hired a separate company to make "courtesy calls" to existing Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus holders asking them to activate their Ventra cards.

CTA has already rescinded a move to eliminate the sale magnetic-stripe farecards while the kinks in Ventra are being fixed. The next critical deadline in the transition is set for Nov. 14, when the old farecard vending machines are expected to be deactivated and Chicago Cards will no longer be accepted.

Kelly said at a news conference, “If you are not ready to go, 100 percent, foolproof, don’t institute it. You are only creating havoc and putting your employees and my members in harm’s way. “