Story Summary

CTA debuts Ventra Cards

People in Chicago now have a new way to pay for rides on trains and buses.

The Ventra Card is made its debut in September, and replaces the current fare cards used on CTA and Pace.

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Six meetings are being held this month to help people who are still having problems with their Ventra cards.

The RTA and the CTA will help customers activate cards and transfer balances from existing fare cards.

The first two meetings are Monday, December 16.

  • One is 10 a.m. to noon at the Carter G. Woodson Library auditorium, at 9525 S. Halsted Street.
  • The second is from 2 to 4 p.m. at Truman College’s Novar Hall, Room 3426, 3rd floor, 1145 W. Wilson Avenue.
  • The third is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Forest Park Library in Forest Park.
  • The fourth is noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, at 2102 W. Ogden Avenue in Chicago.
  • The fifth is 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the RTA Board Room, 16th floor, 175 W. Jackson Blvd.
  • The last is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the Southwest Regional Center, 6117 S. Kedzie Avenue.

A glitch in the Ventra card system allows free rides on the CTA, by swiping some federal ID cards.

A federal employee got on the train after accidentally swiping her work id instead of her Ventra card. She notified her employer and the cta about the problem.

Although the Federal ID cards are used to gain entry at work, it worked about 1 in every 10 swipes on the Ventra card readers. A CTA spokesman said  fixing the issue is a simple process, and should be completed by Monday.

A new problems were reported Thursday for CTA’s Ventra Card system.

Some companies that are trying to enroll their employees in the CTA’s pre-tax, ridership program are instead seeing the names of different businesses, their contact people and phone numbers.

The vendor says it has fixed the problem, and says it wasn’t a large scale problem.

The Ventra Card system was back up and running Wednesday night after an earlier outage

A spokesperson for the CTA said computer “back office system” failed around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, causing a ripple effect to some of the Ventra card readers.  The system had to be rebooted.

165 card readers were affected at 60 different CTA stations, the spokesperson said.  The outage time varied from 15 minutes  to an hour and a half.

CTA estimates the gave out 15,000 free rides during the outage.  The spokesperson says they will bill the vendor, Cubic, for that.

The CTA board will vote Wednesday on its proposed budget for next year.

A board spokesperson stresses the budget includes no fare hikes or services cuts for 2014.

However, problems with the new Ventra fare card system are overshadowing budget talks.

Frustrated riders vented their concerns at an open meeting Tuesday night and are expected at Wednesday’s meeting.

Officials say the CTA is addressing the glitches plaguing a small percentage of  riders but that the majority of Ventra users are not having problems.

Local News

Ventra hearing gets heated

Angry commuters packed the house at a CTA budget hearing Tuesday night.

They took the opportunity to air their grievances with the new Ventra Card payment system.

Ongoing glitches with the Ventra system, including double charges and difficulties switching over to the new card, forced the CTA to restore other fare options last month.

The board is scheduled to vote on the budget proposal on Wednesday.

It doesn’t list any fare hikes or service cuts.

But Tuesday night’s complaints were focused on Ventra and previous service cuts.

“Ventra is an absolutely worthless system, and I do not want it in my city anymore,” said CTA Customer Georgette Kirkendall.

“I urge the CTA to end its partnership with Ventra,” said rider Megan Groves. “Public services should stay public.”

The CTA went back to its older fare payment cards because of the continuous problems with Ventra.

Another problem is popping up related to the CTA’s new Ventra cards.

Stetson Siler and his wife were waiting for Ventra cards of their own, and were surprised when a card arrived for his mother.

She died five years ago.

The RTA has a database for deceased, former riders to help weed out fraud.

Agency officials tell the Tribune, some digits in her social security number may have been transposed, so the mistake went unnoticed.

CTA bus drivers are offering an explanation of why some riders are being charged double for using their new Ventra fare cards.

It seems, when a rider exits through the front door of a bus, he has to pass the fare card reader; and if the card gets too close to the reader, it can charge another fare.

The CTA says it’s possible, but it’s not a widespread problem; and riders can avoid it by simply exiting through the rear door of the bus.

The CTA’s president takes full responsibility for the botched roll-out of the new Ventra card system.

Forrest Claypool also said the contractor won’t be paid until the problems are fixed and the CTA is indefinitely suspending all deadlines related the system.

The Ventra Card system has been an embarrassment to the company, Cubic Transportation, and to the CTA. Riders have flooded the system with irate calls complaining about several hiccups that prevented Ventra from becoming all of the wonderful improvements that CTA officials had promised.

Instead, for many riders it was a flop

So now the CTA is clamping down and playing hard ball with Cubic, insisting that the new system operate at a much higher level of proficiency, including:

  • Callers should experience a wait time of less than 5-minutes to speak to an operator
  • Vending machines and card readers on buses and rail stations must have a 99% availability to be used and not inoperable
  • And all card readers must process card taps in 2.5 seconds or less 99% of the time.

Otherwise, Cubic will not be paid.

The CTA is allowing its customers to use the old Chicago Card Plus while Ventra’s problems are fixed.



The CTA announced Tuesday that it is indefinitely suspending all deadlines related to its problem-plagued ventra card system.

CTA President Forrest Claypool also announced he’s ordering the developer of Ventra to fix its problems fast.

Fare readers sometimes don’t accept the cards.

Cards can take too long to arrive by mail, and the complaint call centers often have long hold times.

The CTA is allowing its customers to use the old Chicago Card Plus while Ventra’s problems are fixed.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) called Ventra a “debacle” and said Claypool and CTA board chairman Terry Peterson should appear before the City Council Transportation Committee to answer questions.

Fioretti also wants to question Cubic Transportation Systems, which won a contract worth up to $454 million to operate Ventra.