CTA & Pace Announce Ventra Launch Date for Select Customers, More Details on Transition to New Modern Fare Payment System

July 29, 2013

Select CTA and Pace customers will be able to use the new Ventra fare payment system, which allows them to use a single fare card for transit across the region, beginning the week of August 5th, the CTA and Pace announced today.

In addition, all CTA and Pace customers will be able to use the new Ventra system starting September 9.

“The launch of Ventra, the new, convenient, modern and reliable fare payment system for our customers, is right around the corner,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “We’re excited to welcome the first users and eager to educate all of our customers about the benefits of Ventra, which will replace an outdated, nearly 20-year-old system with a modern, efficient one that will allow faster boarding, account management and balance protection when the card is registered.”

“With Ventra, it will be easier than ever for Pace passengers to purchase passes and add value,” said Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross. “Having the ability to manage Ventra accounts online or over the phone is another significant benefit to Pace riders both in terms of accessibility and account security.”

The Ventra system is designed by Cubic Transportation Systems, which was awarded the contract to develop in 2011.

First Ventra customers

The week of August 5th, the first U-Pass cards will begin arriving at universities for student distribution and use. The first universities to receive their cards include Rush Medical School, Westwood College of Technology and Northwestern University School of Law. Additional universities participating in the U-Pass program will receive their cards later in the month in time for the start of their fall semesters.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students will receive their Ventra transit cards during school orientation prior to the first day of school on August 26.

The CTA in recent weeks has sent more than 100,000 emails to Chicago Card Plus and Chicago Card registered customers, asking them to make sure their mailing address is updated so they can receive their new free Ventra cards by mail. 

Customers who have validated their addresses will begin receiving their informational packets and cards the week of August 19th and can begin using the Ventra system immediately once when their cards are activated. The CTA urges customers who have Chicago Card Plus or registered Chicago Cards to make sure their account information is up-to-date, which they can do online at transitchicago.com or by calling (888) YOUR-CTA.

Activation will be simple and easily accomplished with a few short steps by calling (877) NOW VENTRA. Chicago Card Plus customers’ balances or products will be automatically transferred to the Ventra system upon activation of Ventra cards.

Customers who received their Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus through pretax transit benefit programs from their employers will begin receiving notification of their transition to Ventra starting in September. 

These customer groups will be the only ones able to purchase products or add value until September. All remaining CTA and Pace customers will be able to use the new system beginning September 9, when Ventra cards will be sold at retail locations and at rail stations. Between August 5 and September 9, Ventra machines will be available only to reload Ventra value; customers will not be able to obtain new Ventra cards until September 9.

Upcoming customer events

In addition to dozens of community meetings, street festivals and other events this summer at which CTA and Pace have been providing an introduction to Ventra, the CTA and Pace will soon announce dates and locations to allow customers to obtain and register Ventra cards with a waived initial $5 one-time fee at community locations. The CTA and Pace encourage customers to “spend it down” – to begin spending down fare balances on current fare media in the transition to the new fare payment system.

The Ventra card has an initial $5 purchase cost, which is immediately refunded to the card for transit use upon registration online or by phone.

Customers who pay with magnetic stripe fare cards and unregistered Chicago Card customers will be able to transfer balances to their Ventra cards at select locations starting in September and throughout the transition to Ventra. However, spending down balances on current cards remains the simplest method of transitioning to Ventra.

Transitioning to new system

Below is a calendar summary of upcoming events:

  • Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card customers who have received their Ventra cards can begin using Ventra system the week of August 19 one they’ve activated their cards.
  • The first U-Pass customers will begin using the system the week of August 5.
  • Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card customers who have received their Ventra cards can begin using Ventra system upon receipt and activation of the cards.
  • CPS students will receive their Ventra transit cards during school orientation prior to the first day of school on August 26.
  • Customers who use magnetic stripe fare cards should begin to spend down balances.
  • There will be fewer Express Vending Machines accepting credit cards and Visitor Pass Machines at select rail stations.
Starting in September:
  • Ventra is available to all CTA and Pace customers on September 9.
  • New Chicago Cards will no longer be issued; balances can still be spent or transferred to Ventra.
  • There will be fewer Transit Card Vending machines to purchase and load fare value at rail stations.
  • No more Express Vending machines and Visitor Pass machines at rail stations.
  • The Regional Transportation Authority will begin issuing new Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit permits to seniors and people with disabilities currently enrolled in those programs.
By the end of October:
  • Chicago Card customers can no longer add or reload transit value at vending machines; balances on cards can still be used or transferred to Ventra.
  • Magnetic stripe customers can no longer buy new transit cards at station vending machines, but can continue to reload their existing cards.
  • Magnetic stripe cards will no longer be sold at retail locations; retailers will have fewer magnetic stripe unlimited-ride period passes (1-day, 3-day, 7-day and 30-day) passes in stock.
  • Fewer Transit Card Vending machines
  • Customers can no longer reload stored value cards.
  • No more functioning Transit Card Vending machines at CTA stations or offsite locations; these will be replaced with Ventra vending machines.
  • Customers can no longer purchase new period passes.
  • Balances on unlimited ride period passes need to be used up.
  • Magnetic stripe farecards (including stored value or period passes) will be no longer accepted.
  • Balance transfers of stored value on remaining valid magnetic stripe cards can be transferred to Ventra through March 2014.
  • Transfers can no longer be purchased on Pace using cash, but can be purchased with Ventra Cards or registered bankcards.

Information about Ventra can be found at ventrachicago.com, transitchicago.com and pacebus.com. All Ventra customers starting August 5 can call (877) NOW VENTRA (669-8368). Starting August 12, customers can visit the new Ventra Customer Service Center at 165 N. Jefferson Street, Chicago, IL 60661 to learn more about Ventra. Sales of Ventra cards at that location will begin September 9.

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