Video: Seattle Man Marvels At Chicago's Ventra App In All Sincerity
By Rachel Cromidas and Mae Rice
"Chicago is a city on the go!" Graham Johnson of Seattle's KIRO 7 news exclaims, kicking off a Monday news segment on the glories of the Ventra app. The whole three-minute clip is like that first quote: earnestly enthused about Chicago, and hilarious if you actually live here.
Not that it's aimed at us. It's aimed at a Seattle audience, which makes sense—it still takes 24 to 48 hours for Seattle residents to add value to their Ventra card equivalent, the ORCA card. Ventra's instant balance updates and Apple Pay options would play well over there. So, probably, does Ventra's generically futuristic name. In 2007, in one of Seattle's best-ever public transit kerfuffles, the city (allegedly) flirted with calling its South Lake Union Streetcar the "South Lake Union Trolley," triggering a wave of T-shirts that read "Ride The S.L.U.T."
But perhaps most importantly, no one in Seattle knows that though the Ventra app "works pretty well" (as one Chicago man named Paul notes unenthusiastically during the segment), Ventra has also been a total nightmare for the city. A quick recap: The CTA delayed and delayed Ventra's 2013 rollout, to the chagrin of transit riders with expiring Chicago Cards. Ventra then epically botched said rollout, riddling the transit system with cards that wouldn't work (when the cards actually made it into passengers' hands), machines that couldn't read them, and fed-up transit employees and riders who just wanted to get on with it. A Tribune investigation soon after found the system was littered with hidden fees, and some customers discovered they were being double- or triple-charged by overzealous card readers that were picking up on data from the credit cards in their wallets and taking money right out of users' bank accounts.
On the bright side, our editor was among an unknown number of Ventra users who rode the CTA for free for weeks during Ventra's rollout as her unregistered card racked up a negative balance in the double digits. On the downside, Ventra reportedly lost over a million dollars in revenue from October through December 2013 due to system glitches.
And let's not forget the time Ventra accidentally mailed 274 Ventra cards to a woman in Cleveland.
Seattle had better learn Ventra's unofficial theme song—an ode to the system's almost universally hated customer service call center—and be careful what you wish for.