Ventra is the name of the new, joint fare system for CTA and Pace which launched system-wide July 1, 2014. Ventra replaces all of CTA & Pace’s old fare media with one card and system that does everything. It’s owned by CTA and is made by Cubic Transportation Systems, the same people who brought you Transit Cards.
Ventra is built on open standards, which means you can also pay directly using personal, contactless bankcards issued by your bank. It also works with mobile wallet payment systems. (Learn more about using third party cards and devices.)
Chicago is the first major U.S. city to adopt an open payment system for transit and speed up boarding.
Ventra will help improve efficiency in several areas of our system. Since nearly all entries to our system are now “tap and go,” that’s less time people will spend waiting in lines at turnstiles and less time buses need to wait while people board and pay. Magnetic cards have helped with this, but still took more time than a contactless transaction does.
People can use the following to pay fare with Ventra:
- Ventra Card, a transit and prepaid debit card that can be used for transit and everyday purchases;
- Ventra Tickets, for single-ride and 1-Day passes; and
- Personal, contactless credit or debit cards issued by your own bank.
Many customers will be able to use the personal, contactless bankcards they already have. There is also a significant increase in places (hundreds of retail locations around town) to purchase or add value to Ventra Cards to purchase fares, which will eliminate long lines of people at vending machines.
The new system eliminates the need for multiple fare cards. With Ventra, you can purchase passes (1-day, 3-Day, 7-Day, 30-Day) and other reduced and free passes. These fare values can be loaded onto Ventra Cards with cash or cards.
More details on how the system works and where to obtain and register your Ventra Card as well as manage your Ventra account can be found at ventrachicago.com.
Why the change?
Our old fare system, installed in the 1990s is at the end of its useful life. Newer fare systems being installed around the world move everyone to contactless tech, offer more options and greater flexibility that we couldn’t bring you with the old system.
Our move to Ventra also allows us to be in compliance with an Illinois law that requires a unified fare system between transit agencies in Northeastern Illinois.
Ventra, which is built on open standards, allows us to upgrade our system, accept payments from other kinds of cards and gets us away from proprietary technology that's limited our options in the past.
Ways to pay with Ventra
- Cash can be used on buses (single ride is $2.25 regular fare)
- Cash can be used to purchase and load value on Ventra Cards at rail stations and retail locations at no additional cost.
- Cash can be used to purchase single ride, paper tickets or 1-day unlimited-ride paper tickets at rail stations only.
- Cash can be used at more than 1,000 Ventra retailers around town to buy and load value and passes onto Ventra Cards.
- Disposable paper Single-Ride and 1-Day tickets can be purchased at vending machines (located in every 'L' station).
- The Single-Ride ticket costs $3 ($2.25 + 25¢ (full fare w/2 transfers within 2 hours) + 50¢ limited use fee = $3), except at O'Hare, where a special fare applies.
- There is no added fee for the 1-Day unlimited-ride paper ticket–its price remains $10 for 24 hours of unlimited riding for one person.
- Ventra Cards can be purchased at rail stations, at more than 1,300 retail locations (including drugstores, currency exchanges and more). They can also be ordered online or even by phone.
- The cards cost $5, which is refunded as transit value upon registration within 90 days. (Ordering online avoids the fee since you'll register with your order.)
- You can load any amount of money onto the Ventra Card, either with cash or with credit/debit cards at CTA rail stations, retail locations.
- You can also load any CTA or Pace pass you like from every vending machine, at retailers or online.
- You can also load value and passes onto Ventra Cards online--either in one-time purchases or by setting up autoload to automatically replenish value or passes.
- Learn more about how having the Ventra Card improves over old fare media on our Ventra Benefits page.
Contactless Credit/Debit Cards
- Any contactless credit/debit card can be used to directly pay fares at rail station turnstiles and on buses. Your card is contactless if it has the contactless wave symbol:
- You can link a Ventra Transit Account to your personal card and add transit value or purchase unlimited-ride passes (1-Day, 7-Day, 30-Day, etc.) for use with that card.
- A Ventra Transit Account on a personal card can be reloaded with transit value and passes at rail stations, retail locations, online or by phone.
- You can also skip loading at machines and pay directly from your card's regular payment account (doing so results in paying a Pay-As-You-Go fare).
Simply touch your payment card to the yellow target on the reader at 'L' stations or to board any CTA or Pace bus.
All of our existing special fares and passes, such as Reduced Fare for children or multi-day passes (7-Day, etc.) will continue to be available and we will still accept cash on buses. You'll also, eventually, will be able to use compatible mobile phones to pay for rides on CTA and Pace.
We'll continue to maintain full control of our fare policy, but without the responsibility of day-to-day maintenance and collection activities. Pace will also operate on the new open fare system (while retaining control of its fare structure, as well) and customers of both services will easily be able to transfer between CTA and Pace using the same form of payment.
Tips for using your card
Take your card out of your wallet
Whenever you pay your fare, be sure to take your card out of your wallet.
Unlike the old system, Ventra is based on open payment standards and can accept contactless cards issued by banks for payment, too.
To avoid "card clash" or accidentally offering a different card for payment, simply take your Ventra Card out of your wallet when you board.
Touch your card directly to the reader
Ventra Cards are contactless cards—that means they use radio waves to talk to a reader.
To make sure your card is read properly by the reader, touch it flat against the yellow target until you hear the first beep (this indicates your card was read).
Setting up autoload (optional)
Autoload is available for both transit value and for several passes—you can enable autoload for a CTA or CTA/Pace 7-Day Pass, CTA/Pace 30-Day Pass and other passes, in addition to autoload for transit value balance.
Once you've logged into your account, it's easy to set up autoload.
Just switch it "on" for either transit value or a pass and your selection will load automatically when your account runs low.
Mail-in balance transfer
As an additional convenience to CTA customers, we’re providing a mail-in option to have balances from old farecards and passes transferred to a registered Ventra Card. Find out how.
Need more help?
Here are three options for getting help:
- Online: ventrachicago.com
- By Phone: 1-877-NOW-VENTRA (1-877-669-8368)
- In person:
Ventra Customer Service Center
165 N. Jefferson St
Mon-Fri, except holidays
Nearest 'L': Clinton on Green & Pink Lines