Chicago area transit riders will soon change the way they pay for transportation.
Starting in 2013, people will be able to pay for CTA train rides with a new Ventra card or their personal credit or debit cards.
Riders can purchase and load money onto a Ventra card at CTA rail stations, retail stations, online or on the phone, then register the card online or on the phone within 90 days. The card costs $5 but the amount is refunded as transit value upon registration.
Ventra also allows riders to use their personal contactless credit or debit cards to pay for CTA rides. Riders can set up a Ventra Transit Account for a credit or debit card, which can be loaded with money anywhere that Ventra cards can be purchased and loaded.
Riders who load money into an account on a Ventra card or a credit or debit card can either pay $2.25 for each ride or load unlimited-ride passes in 1-day, 3-day, 7-day or 30-day increments.
Riders using a Ventra card or their personal card can simply tap the card at the turnstile and go to the CTA train.
People will still be able to buy single-ride or one-day unlimited ride paper tickets. However, single-ride paper tickets will now cost $3 instead of the usual $2.25 per ride. One-day unlimited ride paper tickets will still cost $10.
DePaul University senior Sandra Denton, 22, welcomes the new system as a much needed upgrade that will reward frequent riders.
“While I can see how the price-bump for single-ride tickets could be a problem for some, I think it is a price increase that would have happened one way or another,” said Denton. “Instead of being across the board, however, it is instead encouraging people to buy multiple trips or use a re-loadable card.”
Ventra includes the Pace bus system, allowing riders to have a single card for both the CTA and Pace.
The new system will save CTA approximately $50 million dollars because less money will be spent on producing the re-loadable magnetic strip cards of the current system, according to CTA Media Representative Lambrini Lukidis.
When Ventra launches in the summer of 2013, CTA will still accept the magnetic strip cards.
“We are doing this strategically so we give people enough time to adjust to the new system and use up their balances on the magnetic strip system,” said Lukidis.
Ventra will completely replace CTA’s existing payment systems in 2014.
“We want people to be aware. People see signs at stations already. Information will be phased in periodically,” said Lukidis.
CTA has also started marketing Ventra by asking elected officials and stakeholders to inform the public about the new system.
Jennifer Reese, 19, has a Chicago Card Plus in the current system.
“I have to go to the station to load money onto my card, which is annoying. Being able to load money onto the Ventra card online will make things easier for me,” said Reese.
Northwestern University student Sarah Mustian, 18, rides the CTA frequently.
“For people who just want to buy a single-ride ticket, it’s going to end up costing more. There are people who literally can only pay ride for ride. Also, if people forget their Ventra card or don’t load money onto it, it will be more costly to just pay for a ride,” said Mustian.
Ventra will be the first open-fare system for public transit in North America.
“This will be more convenient and more flexible,” said Lukidis. “It’s up to the consumer to make a decision about what is best for them.”
CTA stations advertise Ventra and the coming changes. In addition, email notifications to registered customers will distribute information about the change.
A customer stands near a CTA vending machine at the Davis station near the Northwestern University campus.