Ventra — the Chicago Transit Authority and Pace’s new fare-payment system — makes its full public rollout Sept. 9, bringing the convenience and flexibility of a single fare card to all transit customers throughout the region.
With the Ventra contactless payment system, transit riders board CTA trains and buses and Pace buses with a simple “tap” of a Ventra Card or a contactless personal bank card. Customers who register their card — a process that takes just a few minutes — will enjoy the benefits of an account-based system, including balance protection and easy account management. There are no extra costs to use Ventra for transit and fares are the same as today.
“Ventra replaces CTA’s outdated, nearly 20-year-old fare-payment system and brings flexible, convenient amenities to customers who take nearly 1.7 million rides on the CTA each weekday,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “This is another example of how the CTA is working to modernize our system while leveraging technology to better serve our customers.”
“Pace and CTA are taking the next step forward in the evolution of fare payment technology to maximize convenience and account security for riders,” said Pace Executive Director T.J. Ross. “Whether a rider uses transit every day or on an occasional basis, Ventra simplifies the process of boarding the bus and paying their fare.”
Ventra will replace all CTA and Pace existing fare media by Dec. 15.
As part of an extensive outreach and education campaign that began last year, the CTA and Pace have deployed Ventra Ambassadors across the region to assist customers. Stationed at most of the CTA’s busiest rail stations, the ambassadors provide information, answer questions and assist customers with using Ventra vending machines. The Ambassador effort began last week and will continue into this week. CTA also has information specialists, identified by a yellow safety vest, deployed throughout the system to assist customers.
The new Ventra Card features two accounts — one for transit payments only and another optional prepaid debit account for everyday purchases anywhere Debit MasterCard is accepted. The prepaid card is an optional feature for cardholders who choose to use the Money Network MasterCard Prepaid Debit Account.
The full public introduction of Ventra on Sept. 9 is the latest step in a phased rollout of the new system. The CTA and Pace first introduced Ventra last month to select customers, including Chicago Public School students, U-Pass users and Chicago Card Plus customers. The phased rollout is designed to allow some customers to become acquainted with the system group by group, while allowing the CTA and Pace to closely monitor system performance.
Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card customers continue to receive their cards in the mail, preceded by email notifications that let customers know when their cards are expected to arrive. Once those customers receive their cards, they must call the toll-free number on a sticker affixed to the card to activate it for immediate use, a process that takes just a minute or two.
The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) will issue new reduced fare and ride free permits for customers who already receive reduced or free rides later this month. Chicago Card Plus and Chicago Card customers participating in the transit benefits program will begin to transition to Ventra starting this month through the fall.
The $5 Ventra Card purchase fee will be waived through December when ordered online or by phone. Card purchase fees at Ventra vending machines and participating Ventra retail locations will be converted to transit value upon registration. Registration also provides balance protection in the event of a lost or stolen card—a significant benefit that was previously not possible for CTA and Pace customers using magnetic stripe cards.
Customers are encouraged to begin spending down the value of their Chicago Cards and magnetic stripe cards and to use multiday passes to prepare for the transition to Ventra. Both the old and new systems will overlap for a period in order to ease customers onto the new fare payment system. During the transition, customers will begin to notice a more limited ability to reload and purchase new magnetic stripe farecards in the coming weeks and months. CTA and Pace will issue reminders as these important dates approach.
To further assist customers with the transition to Ventra, the CTA and Pace will hold 27 balance transfer events across Chicago and the suburbs. Customers can transfer stored transit value from eligible magnetic-stripe cards and Chicago Cards to a new registered Ventra Card, which will be provided at no cost. Customers may bring a maximum of five eligible fare media cards at a time with a combined minimum of $5 in transit value.
Those with a contactless credit or debit card can also register online or by phone for a Ventra Transit Account and use the bank cards already in their wallets to access the CTA and Pace.
CTA and Pace are the first major transit agencies in North America to offer a fare payment system which accepts all contactless forms of payment. The system was designed and developed by Cubic Transportation Systems.