Chicago Transit Authority and Pace will completely transition to the new Ventra payment system by July 1, the transit agencies said Friday.
By May 1, customers no longer can purchase magnetic stripe cards or the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus, and by June 1, they won't be able to reload them. By July 1, the date of the full transition, customers can't use magnetic stripe cards, and Pace customers paying with cash no longer will be issued a Transfer Card.
The fare system introduced last year experienced a bumpy rollout plagued with reports of poor customer service, activation issues, card-reading problems and overcharged cards. Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed his frustration over the system, and a CTA rider even created a free app called "Ventra Fails."
Transit officials said in December that Ventra's fare-equipment issues cost the CTA $1.2 million in free rides, but CTA President Forrest Claypool said Friday the system has improved thanks to software upgrades and improvements to the Ventra call center.
“For the last three months Ventra has performed well overall, and is used by more than one million riders each day,” Claypool said. “We have worked closely with our vendor, Cubic, to increase the reliability and convenience of the system.”
Claypool said 81 percent of CTA customers and nearly 60 percent of Pace customers are currently using Ventra. More than 1.5 million Ventra transit accounts are active. CTA will continue to closely monitor its performance, he said.
“We teamed with CTA and Cubic to create improvements that focus on meeting our customers’ expectations,” Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross said. “Over the next few months, Pace is carrying out a grassroots campaign to inform our riders about the transition and the favorable benefits of using Ventra.”
Transit riders who still need to transition can buy a Ventra Card at vending machines at the CTA’s rail stations and retail locations in Chicago and the suburbs or online at ventrachicago.com. "Balance transfer events" and distribution events also will be offered over the next three months.