WEST LOOP — Get ready: the CTA's new fare payment system, Ventra, is here.
When the new system launches — Monday for students with U-Pass and for CTA and Pace workers; Sept. 9 for everyone — it will allow CTA and Pace riders to use one card for both systems.
Chicago Plus Card users will start switching over to Ventra on Aug. 19.
CTA Revenue Director Eric Reese said the transit agency was also talking with Metra to see if it would adopt the Ventra system in the future, and hoped to add an option so riders could pay with just their phone.
Now that the agency is moving to the new payment system, the CTA has ramped up its educational efforts: Two buses, painted white and bearing the Ventra logo, have been dispatched to community events to deliver information to Chicagoans who use the CTA or Pace. The buses house a video display and pamphlets with information about the new payment system, from adding to the card balance to tapping it on the readers.
There will also be "progressively more outreach as we get to September," Reese said, and that includes more radio and TV ads for Ventra. The CTA will send out emails to its card users telling them about the switch, as well.
The system has faced criticism, some of it centered around the possible fees users can incur when using the debit card feature, but Reese said there have been fewer confused calls coming in because of the CTA's outreach efforts.
"As we've kicked off the campaign of information, the number of calls of concern have gone down" and callers now have "more questions of curiosity," Reese said.
CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said users were able to contact a hotline with questions. CTA and Pace will have fully transitioned to the Ventra system by 2014, and the old machines will removed in the fall, leaving only the Ventra machines.
"Once people spend a couple of minutes on it ... they'll be like, 'Oh, I got it,'" she said.