The Chicago Transit Authority announced Nov. 5 it has directed the developer of the new Ventra fare payment system to take immediate steps to resolve a number of technical issues that have led to poor customer experiences.
At a meeting of the City Club of Chicago, CTA President Forrest Claypool said there have been improvements on a number of fronts — from improving the customer-service call center to increasing the reliability of Ventra card readers — but that CTA has demanded an even stronger response from Cubic Transportation Systems.
The new Open Fare contactless card payment system is the first of its kind in North America, and is replacing an obsolete system while meeting the requirements of state legislation for a universal-fare system for regional transit agencies.
“Just two months into the transition to the first new fare-payment system in nearly 20 years, customers are adopting Ventra at an unprecedented rate in the industry, with more than 25 million rides taken and more than 50 percent of CTA customers using Ventra after just eight weeks,” Claypool said. “Though the system has met several of the high performance standards we’ve set for this project, and performance has been improving, the number of issues we’ve seen are simply unacceptable for our customers.”
Though hundreds of thousands of riders use the system smoothly each day, Claypool said, too many issues still impact customers each day. “Our vendor hasn’t fully met our expectations yet — or those of our customers — in a number of areas, and therefore we are holding them to a much higher level of accountability.”
Richard Wunderle, Cubic Transportation senior vice president and general manager of North American Operations, who joined Claypool onstage at the City Club presentation, acknowledged the issues and pledged improved performance.
“Cubic has worked hand in hand with CTA to correct the problems that have surfaced and would like to offer our sincere apologies to riders who have been inconvenienced as the new system is being deployed,” said Wunderle. “We take responsibility and we are going to get it right just as we did for the current Chicago Card system. Cubic has fielded major systems in cities around the world and we more than anyone else have a stake in the success of the Ventra system. We don’t begin to recover our investment until the system is performing as it should and we meet all the CTA’s requirements. We’re experienced, we’re the best and we’re committed to get it right for Chicago.”
Until Cubic makes improvements to its customer-service call center and addresses some technical issues, the CTA will push back the full implementation past the original Dec. 15 date. That date will be determined based on Cubic’s performance. Both Ventra and legacy fare systems will continue to operate in parallel during this time.
Further, until Cubic addresses the existing issues, the company will receive no payment from the CTA.
“We are listening to our customers, many of whom have not had the seamless experience with Ventra we had planned for and worked toward,” Claypool said. “I want those customers to know that we are fully committed to address each and every issue — and more importantly, that we’re making great progress.”