CTA officials today unveiled the agency's newest farecard, the Chicago Card PlusTM, a new electronic farecard that can be managed through an online account. The Chicago Card Plus features automatic reloading via a customer's credit card, fare balance protection and the convenience of touch-and-go fare payment. The new card will be available to customers on January 19.
"The Chicago Card Plus provides online account management and the convenience of automatic reloading. The CTA is the first transit agency in the country to offer an account-based system to all transit customers, both bus and rail," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "People use computers to pay their bills, buy their groceries and communicate with friends. Now, they can also manage their Chicago Card Plus account online from the convenience of their home or office computer."
The new Chicago Card Plus enables customers to add value to their cards automatically by charging a credit card for a predetermined amount each time the balance falls to $10. The $10 reload threshold ensures that customers will have enough value on their card for transit while the 24-hour period to process data takes place. Customers can also check their balances and change the preferences online from the convenience of their home or office computer.
Both Chicago Card, the agency's first electronic farecard introduced in 2002, and Chicago Card Plus offer touch-and-go boarding, a $1 bonus for every $10 of added value and fare protection. But, the Chicago Card Plus offers two fare choices - it can be used as a 30-Day pass or a Pay-Per-Use card. For Pay-Per-Use, customers select one of four pre-determined reload amounts, either $10, $20, $40 or $60. When the balance on the Chicago Card Plus falls to $10, a credit card will be automatically charged with the pre-determined amount to reload the card.
For the 30-Day Pass option, a customer's credit card is first charged $75, the cost of a 30-Day Pass, and the 30-day cycle is activated on first use. Then, each month a customer's credit card will be automatically charged $75 on the 27th day of each 30-day cycle. The new pass will take effect with the first ride taken after the current 30-day cycle has ended.
Starting in April 2004, the Chicago Card Plus will be available as part of the Transit Benefit program, a pre-tax payroll deduction administered by employers. Since the introduction of the Chicago Card, program participants have expressed an interest in having an electronic farecard as an option. The Chicago Card Plus will allow Transit Benefit customers to choose between Pay-Per-Use or a 30-Day Pass and automatically have value added to their accounts with their pre-tax dollars.
The Transit Benefit program provides a tax benefit to both employers and employees by enabling them to purchase fares with pre-tax earnings. Participants? monthly deductions can be up to $100, which enables employees to save $200 to $465 in taxes annually. Employers benefit by getting an annual payroll tax savings of approximately 10 percent of what their employees set aside due to decreased payroll costs.
Employees currently enrolled in the Transit Benefit program that want to switch to Chicago Card Plus must sign up. Newly interested companies not currently participating in the Transit Benefit program can opt for Chicago Card Plus as well.
"Using Chicago Card Plus will result in easier payments, faster boarding and better service for CTA customers," said CTA Chairman Carole Brown. "I encourage all customers to try out this new and improved technology."
Through March 31, 2004, there is no cost to purchase a Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus. After that date, the cost will be $5. This fee is non-refundable and is not available for transportation.
The Chicago Card Plus can be used to pay a full fare or transfer at any CTA rail station and on any CTA or Pace bus, with the exception of Pace route #835, a charter route that runs from Indiana to Chicago.
The Chicago Card Plus can be ordered online, through the mail, by calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. or at CTA's main offices on the 7th floor of the Merchandise Mart. In addition, order forms are included in Chicago Card Plus sales brochures found on CTA buses, at CTA rail stations and at CTA headquarters on the 7th floor of the Merchandise Mart. Order forms are also available online at www.chicago-card.com.
The Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus resemble a credit card and both use SmartCard technology that enable customers to simply touch the card against a target on bus fareboxes and rail turnstiles, and go. Because the card is passed over a sensor it allows faster boarding for customers. It takes, on average, two seconds to use a regular transit card and only 3/10 of a second to tap a Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus to a sensor target. The extra seconds saved may not sound like much from an individual perspective, but as more and more CTA customers switch to electronic farecards, travel will become even more efficient as those seconds add up and shave time off the boarding process for everyone.
If a card is lost, stolen or damaged, upon notification, the CTA will cancel the card and issue a replacement with the same balance available at the time the card was reported. A $5 fee is charged for a replacement card.
In November 2002, the CTA introduced its first electronic touch-and-go farecard, the Chicago Card. Designed to provide more efficient service by improving boarding on buses and trains, more than 29,000 are currently in circulation.
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