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Evaluating the CTA’s Ventra FAQs—what’s helpful, what’s confusing and what’s spin
The CTA announced today rollout of its new Ventra card system will begin as early as next Monday for some riders. Despite paying relatively close attention to news about the transit payment system over the past few months, I still felt a little bewildered by Ventra after this latest news.
And I’m not alone, based on Twitter chatter.
Happily, the Q&A page and Common Misconceptions page at the CTA website and the FAQ at the dedicated Ventra website do a pretty good job of explaining what’s up if you’ve got 10 to 15 minutes to spare. With the transition approaching like an express train about to skip your stop, it’s time to read up so you don’t get left behind.
There are some real benefits to this card. You can (but are not required to) link it to a credit card like you would with Chicago Card Plus, or you can load it with cash like the regular Chicago Card. It’s durable and available immediately at train stations throughout the city, unlike Chicago Cards. Yes, you have to pay an initial $5 fee to get it, but you get that back when you register online or by phone—a process the CTA says will be fast and easy and protect you if your card is stolen. And it’ll cut down on littering of those wasteful blue CTA cards.
Still, a few of the CTA’s points are misleading or incomplete, like these two on its defensive myth-debunking page:
“Ventra will cost CTA riders more to ride”
CTA fares remain the same, and all unlimited-ride pass prices (1-day, 3-day, 7-day, 30-day) remain the same. CTA is introducing a new fare product—a single-ride disposable ticket—for customers who don’t want to use a reloadable card. The 50-cent fee for this ticket is avoidable by using any of the other payment options available.
CTA vending machines currently do not provide change, so those without exact change are already paying $3 for a single ride.
C’mon, CTA: You’re only already paying $3 for a single ride if you immediately toss your card with its remaining 75-cent balance into the trash. (By that logic you’re already paying $20 for a single ride if that’s the only denomination you have at the time you purchase a CTA card.)
Today, that leftover 75 cents can be used later—if not by you than by a friend or by reporters investigating the value of discarded cards.
“Customers must use a Ventra Card”
Riders can also use their personal credit/debit cards or can purchase a single-ride or 1-day disposable ticket. One of the great things about Ventra is that you can choose which option works best for you, including the option to use a card you may already have in your wallet.
With a Ventra Card, there are some really great options. You’ll have a card that you can use for transit and, optionally, use as a prepaid debit card. And whether you use Ventra Cards or your own contactless bankcard, you can use the very same card for both regular pay-as-you-go fares and any unlimited ride transit pass you’re using today. There’s no need to tie a bankcard to a Ventra Card either–you can pay with cash at machines in every station or at Ventra retailers.
Sure, you can use a personal credit/debit card instead—but only if it has contactless payment technology. (None of the three cards in my wallet do.)
And if you purchase a single-ride ticket, you’ll be paying that $3 price ($2.25 for a single fare, plus an automatic 25-cent transfer—whether you want it or not—and a 50-cent fee). Who among us hasn’t forgotten or misplaced a Chicago Card for a day and enjoyed the ease of buying a single-use card for $2.25? Forgetfulness will cost you an extra 75 cents now.
Still, that fee is most likely to hit out-of-towners who don’t want to register a Ventra card or don’t know how. (The 50-cent fee won’t be assessed at O’Hare or for one-day passes. Single fare from O’Hare already recently jumped to $5, and cost for a one-day pass jumped from $5.75 to $10, so those riders are hurting enough.)
And one last clarifier, this one from the Q&A:
Q: What will happen to my Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus?
A: Chicago Card Plus (CCP) and registered Chicago Card (CC) customers will receive notifications via email of the transition to Ventra in July, and a few weeks later will receive their new Ventra Cards in the mail with instructions on how to activate. CCP and registered CC customers will be among the first groups to use the new Ventra System in August.
Well . . . unless you participate in a pretax commuter benefits program through your employer, the Trib’s Jon Hilkevitch reports. In that case, you won’t get an email about switching from your Chicago Card until September.
See, couldn’t be more clear, right? Still have questions? Leave them in the comments and we’ll try to find answers. Or tweet them to @samkirkla.