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CTA Suspending All Switchover Deadlines For Ventra

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 5, 2013 7:25PM

Photo credit: Stephanie Barto

The Chicago Transit Authority has indefinitely suspended all deadlines and timetables related to the transition to the Ventra fare payment system. A CTA spokesman told the Sun-Times, “While we could make the deadlines, we think the right thing to do is hold our contractor 100 percent accountable.” That would be Cubic Transportation Systems, the company charged with managing the trouble-plagued system.

CTA President Forrest Claypool was expected to call for the suspension of the Ventra deadlines and for the Cubic to improve their customer service. Riders calling Ventra’s phone network to activate their cards still face waits of up to an hour and disconnects even as Cubic has increased the size of its call center staff.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) told the Sun-Times he called Ventra’s customer service center only to be disconnected or hang up after waits of up to 45 minutes. City Council Transportation Committee chairman Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) plans to introduce a resolution next week to hold hearings on Ventra and wants the CTA officials who are hellbent on Cubic accepting accountability for the mess to “explain what’s going on with Ventra. There’s still numerous problems with it.’’

Claypool was expected to announce an extension of the Ventra transition during an appearance before the City Club of Chicago this morning and provide details on “specific metrics” Cubic Transportation Systems will need to meet to improve its performance. Let’s hope “reaching a customer service representative” is one of those metrics.

Ventra has been plagued by numerous issues since it launched in August ranging from farecard readers that don’t recognize cards, multiple charges to Ventra accounts and riders being charged for fares on other contactless cards because Ventra cards need to be removed from their wallets before tapping the readers.

CTA backed away from a move last month to stop selling magnetic stripe fare cards as complaints about Ventra’s glitches increased, was nearing a Nov. 14 deadline to suspend the use of Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus accounts and hoped to have the transition to Ventra complete by Dec. 15.

Last week the head of the union representing CTA's rail workers recommended extending Ventra's transition after hearing reports of customers taking their frustrations out on rail station workers.