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More than half of Ventra card holders haven't registered their cards

More than half of CTA Ventra card holders have not yet registered their Ventra cards, even though the CTA has been encouraging them to do so to protect their transit balances.

CTA officials offered an update Monday on the agency’s shaky Ventra rollout, indicating that 1.07 million people now have Ventra cards.

But only 506,000 — just under half — have registered those cards.

That leaves 564,000 customers who have not registered, which involves providing your name, date of birth, phone number, address, and email address. In exchange, card balances are protected if a card is lost or stolen–although card holders must still pay a $5 lost-card fee to get a new card.

Some CTA riders have complained that they shouldn’t have to give out their date of birth just to ride a bus or train with a Ventra card. They view the registration information as intrusive.

CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis noted Monday that Ventra needs each piece of information “to know who you are” because more than one person could have the same name.

She also emphasized that card holders have 90 days to register from the date of purchase.

CTA officials last week cancelled their decision to cut off new purchases of old magnetic-stripe cards on Oct. 7 after customers complained they never received promised Ventra cards in the mail or waited up to an hour on the phone to get a customer service representative.

CTA President Forrest Claypool said changes the CTA wanted to implement on Oct. 7 are on hold until the agency’s Ventra contractor, Cubic Transportation Systems, triples its call center operators, from 100 to 300. He has said that would take “several weeks.”

CTA officials have insisted the technology behind paper magnetic-striped cards is outdated and that the producer of those cards — also Cubic — is no longer making them.

The move to reliance on a plastic Ventra card, or any credit or debit card with a radio frequency identification chip, will speed boarding with the mere tap needed on a fare reader to register payment, officials say. It will allow Ventra customers to reuse their cards, to manage them online and to load them with multiple fare products, such as both one-way rides and multi-day passes.

Lukidis noted that 75 percent of past CTA riders used magnetic-striped cards, so switching to a registered Ventra card will give them balance protection they were never able to previously enjoy.

“The Ventra system was fully launched just five weeks ago. It’s premature to jump to conclusions about customers’ registration habits this early in the rollout,” Lukidis said.

“It’s up to the customer if they want to register their card. They still pay the same fares they always have. And they get the convenience of Ventra.”

Ventra cards mailed to Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus card holders are already registered, Lukidis noted.