Starting in 2013, Chicago area transit riders will have a new and more convenient way to pay for rides on CTA and Pace.
Ventra is our new payment system that will allow customers to use a single fare card for regional transit throughout the Chicago area. You'll be able to pay for CTA and Pace bus and train rides with the following contactless payment methods:
- 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, bank-issued credit or debit cards.
Simply “tap” your payment card at 'L' stations or to board any CTA or Pace bus.
We'll continue offering special fares and multi-day passes, including 30-Day and 7-Day Passes, and will still accept cash on buses. You'll also, eventually, be able to use compatible mobile phones to pay for rides on CTA and Pace.
Ventra will be available to all CTA riders and on Pace’s fixed route buses in the summer of 2013. Ventra will replace CTA and Pace’s existing fare systems in 2014.
Chicago will be 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 will be “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 take more time than a contactless transaction does.
Many customers will be able to use the bank cards they already have. There will also be a significant increase in places to purchase or add value to Ventra Cards to purchase fares, which will eliminate long lines of people at vending machines.
The new system is intended to eliminate the multiple magnetic-stripe cards and the Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus currently used for fare payments. You'll still be able to purchase passes like the 1-day, 3-Day, 7-Day, 30-day and other reduced and free passes. These fare values will be loaded onto the new pre-paid Ventra Cards with cash or tied to existing bank accounts (in order to use your personal credit/debit card, or your NFC, payment-enabled phone).
Ways to pay with the Ventra system
- 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 over 2,000 Ventra retailers around town to buy and load value and passes onto Ventra Cards.
- Disposable paper single ride and 1-day Unlimited-ride tickets can be purchased at rail stations, only.
- Only the paper single ride ticket will cost $3 ($2.25 + 25¢ (full fare w/transfer) + 50¢ limited use fee = $3).
- There is no added fee for the 1-day unlimited-ride paper ticket–its price remains $10 for all-day rides.
- Ventra Cards can be purchased at rail stations, more than 2,000 retail locations and they can be ordered online or by phone.
- The cards have a $5 one-time fee which is immediately refunded as transit value upon registration. Customers have 90 days to register; registration takes less than two minutes.
- You can load any amount of money onto the Ventra Card for no additional fees, either with cash or with credit/debit cards at CTA rail stations, retail locations.
- You can also reload Ventra Cards via an online Ventra account.
- Using Ventra Cards, you can either pay per ride (at no additional cost) or load unlimited-ride passes in 1-day, 3-day, 7-day and 30-day increments).
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 this 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.
- Using a personal credit or debit card is free – there are no additional fees.
CTA will continue to maintain full control of our fare policy, but without the responsibility of day-to-day maintenance and collection activities. This summer, we'll begin the transition of its new fare system—and phasing out the magnetic stripe cards (which will be completely decommissioned by early 2014). You can expect an extensive campaign to educate people about the new system.
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.
Ventra Registration is fast and easy
The Facts about Ventra
You may have heard people say that fares are increasing or that you need a credit card to use Ventra and get the best fare—neither of these things are true. Get the facts on Ventra here where we address common misconceptions about Ventra
Ventra Cards will be able to be registered online at ventrachicago.com or by phone. Almost immediately after registration, the $5 card fee will be refunded as transit value and you can start using your card. Registration provides lost and stolen protection of transit value. It also creates an account which can be monitored online, by phone or through a Ventra mobile app.
You can link your Ventra card to your personal bank issued cards and make pass purchases on-line. Remember, passes and transit value can also be loaded at all CTA rail stations and retail locations.
Once you have a registered account, you'll also be notified if your account is nearing the 18-month dormancy period to avoid any fees. Just a single use of the Ventra card within 18-months will prevent a $5 monthly dormancy fee.
Q: When I ride the train, I use cash to buy a Transit Card. Unless I use a credit card, will I have to pay $3 now every time I ride?
A: No. While the disposable, paper, single-ride Ventra Ticket, which includes a $2.25 train fare, $0.25 for a transfer and a $0.50 limited use ticket fee does cost $3, you can still use cash and keep paying what you do today. Here's how:
All you'll need to do is buy a Ventra Card, just once, which you'll be able to do to 24/7 at every CTA station. The cost for the card gets refunded right back to you as transit value, too, if you register within 90 days. (You'll also be able to do this on the spot, too, by calling a toll-free number or going online, if your phone has Internet access.)
Effectively, getting the card, which you only need to do once, doesn't cost you anything and then you'll add value (and even passes) much like you do today, although you'll also be able to add value and passes at over 2,000 retail shops, too.
Q: Will I need to tie a credit card to a Ventra Card like with Chicago Card Plus requires now?
A: No—not at all. You can use cash to buy and put value on a Ventra Card at any Ventra vending machine or from what'll be thousands of retailers around town. Even more, you can put transit value for pay-as-you-go use and unlimited ride passes on the very same card. Once you have the card, you'll be able to do everything you do with cash today—and a lot more.
Q: What if I don't have a Ventra Card when I get to the train station. Will I be forced to buy a $3, disposable Ventra Ticket if I just need one ride?
A: Also, no. If you have a contactless card from your bank, you can create a "Ventra transit account" on the card you already have and start using that.
Further, if you don't have a contactless card and want a Ventra Card, you won't need to go out of your way to get one. The new, reusable, contactless Ventra Card will be available from the vending machines starting to go into stations right now.
It'll cost an initial $5 to buy the card, but you only have to do it once and you get the money back right away as transit value (value for use on buses and trains)—just by simply registering the card within 90 days. You can start using it, with cash, right away and you don't have to do anything in advance to get started.
Q: So how does Ventra work with passes?
A: Unlike today's fare media, where there are something like a dozen different kinds of cards for various uses, Ventra will simplify everything. For most riders, your one, reusable Ventra Card (or contactless personal bankcard) can be easily used for both pay-per-use riding and as an unlimited ride pass.
For example, if you use a Ventra Card like you might use the regular (blue) Chicago Card or Transit Card today, you'll find that Ventra gives you a lot more options—for example, you can load any pass (like a 7-day, 30-day, etc.) right onto the card you'll already have in your pocket. No need to get new cards, and you'll be able to do this at any machine, thousands of retail locations, online or by phone.
Q: I'm a Chicago Card Plus user. Will I need to do anything different?
A: No. When you're transitioned to Ventra (we're going to make it very easy—more details are coming), your Ventra Card will work just the same.
But that doesn't mean there aren't any benefits for you—in fact, your new card will give you a slew of new options.
For example, if you have your card set up to automatically load value for pay-per-ride use, you will just as easily be able to switch to using a 30-day pass as today—but also a 7-day, or a 3-day pass, too. And you won't have to do it online—if you're on the go and decide you want to start riding on an unlimited pass, you can just walk up to a machine and load one onto your account. It's all up to you how, when and where you add value or passes.
Transit & Retail
The Ventra Card will have separate transit and retail accounts on one card. Those who choose not to or don't want to use their bank cards, or those who do not have a bank account, can use these new reloadable cards for transit or for any other retail purchase where debit cards are accepted. Cards will be able to be registered online for account management, and quickly accept fund transfers from a bank account to the account on the card. You can also add value for both accounts with cash.
- You'll be able to add value for transit use at CTA stations and many retail locations around town.
- Transit value and special fares can be loaded onto cards, using cash and credit cards, at vending machines and at many retail locations.
- You can activate your optional Prepaid Debit Account online or over the phone.
- You can then add value for regular purchases (retail use) online, over the phone or with cash at many retail locations that sell the Ventra Card. You can also transfer funds online directly from a bank account.
- In addition to making purchases, you can load funds via direct deposit, make online bill payments and more with your Prepaid Debit Account.
Visit ventrachicago.com for more info on Ventra.
See also: Public Hearing presentation on Open Fare Media fees (.pdf)