Ventra cards become only way to pay starting July 1

Written By BY MONIFA THOMAS Staff Reporter Posted: 04/16/2014, 06:08am
Array A CTA rider uses their linked debit card via Ventra's payment system while entering the California Blue Line station on Friday, December 13, 2013. | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times Media

As of July 1, Ventra cards will be the only way to pay for CTA and Pace trains and buses, officials announced Friday.

The Chicago Transit Authority and suburban Pace had held off on switching to a Ventra-only fare payment system sooner because of a series of glitches with the new plastic Ventra cards with special “contactless” chips. For instance, about 15,000 CTA customers got free rides in November when they were waved through gates with malfunctioning Ventra card readers at 60 rail stations.

The CTA said it would not eliminate the old fare payment system, which used magnetic-stripe cards as well as the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus, until the issues with Ventra were fixed.

On Friday, CTA President Forrest Claypool said progress has been made.

“For the last three months Ventra has performed well overall, and is used by more than one million riders each day,” Claypool said in a statement. “We have worked closely with our vendor, [Cubic Transportation Systems], to increase the reliability and convenience of the system.”

June 30 will be the last day CTA customers can use magnetic stripe cards to pay for a ride. Pace customers paying with cash will also no longer be issued a transfer card.

Instead, all customers after that date will be transitioned to Ventra, CTA and Pace officials said.

Eighty-one percent of CTA customers and nearly 60 percent of Pace customers are already using Ventra, officials said.

For those who still need to make the transition, Ventra said it will have a series of events over the next three months to help customers transfer balances from valid magnetic-stripe cards and Chicago Cards to a new Ventra Card — with no upfront purchase fee.

Customers can also obtain a Ventra Card at vending machines at CTA’s 145 rail stations and at more than 1,000 retail locations in Chicago and the suburbs.

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