CTA to present weekly report cards on how Ventra is faring

SHARE CTA to present weekly report cards on how Ventra is faring
SHARE CTA to present weekly report cards on how Ventra is faring

UPDATE: On Nov. 20, a CTA spokeswoman said CTA field personnel “monitoring activity at each rail station”” provided the basis of the CTA’s estimate that 15,000 riders got free rides during the Nov. 13 Ventra fare reader meltdown at 60 rail stations. On Nov. 21, the head of the CTA rail union disputed that number and questioned how CTA employees could have accurately taken head counts as hoardes of riders streamed through turnstiles for free.

The CTA will be presenting weekly updates on how its struggling Ventra vendor is progressing on demands that it meet three new performance targets, CTA President Forrest Claypool said Tuesday.

Two weeks after he conceded too many customers of the system’s new fare payment vendor were “confused and frustrated,” Claypool said that, starting Friday, he would be providing the media with weekly briefings on the progress of the CTA’s Ventra operator, Cubic Transportation Systems.

“We’ll have two weeks of information to share with the media. We’ll answer all questions about Ventra at that time. You’ll be able to see everything,” Claypool said.

“Every week we’ll update you on the progress going forward.”

Claypool announced the new performance targets at a Nov. 5 address to the City Club of Chicago, and promised Cubic would not get a dime until it met them. At the City Club, even a Cubic executive apologized for Ventra’s rocky rollout and promised to fix the problems.

In addition, Claypool announced he was temporarily suspending all Ventra transition deadlines until all Ventra problems are ironed out.

Claypool has demanded that Cubic ensure that: 99 percent of calls to the Ventra call center are answered within five minutes; 99 percent of payment taps on readers register within 2.5 seconds; and 99 percent of Ventra machines and readers are working.

The new benchmarks followed repeated complaints that included long hold times at call centers, double billing, and taps on readers that weren’t registering payments or were taking too long to do so.

A week and a half later, Cubic apparently flubbed the two targets involving fare readers when readers at 60 rail stations malfunctioned during the Dec. 13 evening rush hour, due to a “server failure.” As a result, CTA employees waved through what the CTA estimated was 15,000 rail riders for free.

CTA spokesmen to date have been unable to explain how the agency came up with the 15,000 estimate, given that hoards of passengers streamed through opened rail gates at the height of the rush hour, with no apparent means to count them. However, officials say the CTA is demanding reimbursement from Cubic for the lost fares.

Only two days after the rush-hour fiasco, Chicago’s largest bank — JPMorgan Chase — warned its customers to take their Ventra cards out of their wallets before tapping them on Ventra fare readers. The warning came after between 100 and 1000 Chase customers complained that their Chase bank cards had been accidentally charged CTA rail fares because the Chase cards contain the same radio frequency identification chip as Ventra cards.

Chase said that it will reimburse customers in such situations and that, for the time being, the bank is swallowing the cost of the CTA fares to those customers.

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