The way you pay public transit fares in Chicago could change dramatically next year.
The Chicago Transit Authority board plans to vote Wednesday on the related fees of Ventra, a new contactless card system that allows riders to tap a card and go. It eliminates paper and is aimed at offering riders more payment options.
Once the system is in place, riders can buy a Ventra card, which costs $5, and still use debit and credit cards. The $5 initial cost is refunded in transit value as soon as the card is registered online or by phone.
If you buy a card and don't use it for a while, though, be prepared to pay a dormancy fee. Those with inactive accounts for 18 months have to pay a $5 fee. That's the rule in place with the current CTA Chicago Card except Ventra offers an 18-month limit instead of the Chicago Card's 15 months.
"The point is we want people to use the money on their card, the money they paid for transit," CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said. Lukidis notes card holders will receive emails leading up to the 18 months to avoid the $5 cost.
Some riders aren't on board with another element of the system, an increased fare for those who pay cash for a one-way ticket, saying it will hurt the working poor. If you buy a paper ticket, the price of a one-way fare will cost 50 cents plus 25 cents for a transfer.
"I'm paying enough for the CTA as is," commuter Roy Belzer said. "I mean I can't afford to pay anymore. Working, waiting tables ..."
"It's really more money toward the city and less money for the pockets of the people," commuter Marvin Perez said.
Lukidis says there's no reason to worry. The cash fee only applies if you buy a paper ticket on the "L." Riders can pay cash at Ventra machines and can still use a credit or debit card.