The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

CTA Ventra Card: Confusion Abounds in Card's First Week

By Erica Demarest | September 11, 2013 12:51pm
 Red Line passengers said they were confused about Ventra, the new CTA payment system.
Ventra Card
View Full Caption

SOUTH LOOP — Two days after the CTA rolled out its new Ventra payment system, more than a few commuters said they still don't understand the switch.

"It's confusing because I don't even know how the card works, really," said Carrie Johnson, a student who uses public transit daily.

Speaking Wednesday from the Roosevelt CTA station, Johnson said she bought a Ventra card but hadn't registered it yet because she doesn't have a computer at home.

One of the benefits of Ventra, CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said, is online account management. Passengers can easily check balances and monitor usage once they register.

Justin Lee, who was hustling to work Wednesday morning, said he hasn't had any problems with the new system — despite the fact two Ventra pay pads were out of order at the Roosevelt station.

"It's pretty good," he said.

But Leo Brady, who uses Chicago Card Plus, said he still hasn't received his Ventra card.

The CTA began mailing reloadable sky-blue Ventra cards to current Chicago Card users in August. As Monday's Ventra rollout came and went, many passengers complained they never got their cards.

Lukidis said the CTA is shipping them in waves — about 15,000 cards are going out daily.

“Monday was not any sort of deadline day. It’s not like you had to have a Ventra card or you couldn’t get on the train," Lukidis said. “We’re on top of mailing all of those cards."

Brady wasn't impressed.

“It just seems like a silly thing — you’re switching a card for a card," he said.

Several passengers said they refuse to switch to Ventra.

Akilah Perry, who uses a Chicago Card, said she planned to run down her current balance and begin buying magnetic stripe 30-day passes as Ventra becomes more prevalent.

“It’s not a good purchase," Perry said of the Ventra card, which costs $5 (though they can be obtained for free through the end of the year at ventrachicago.com, by calling 877-669-8368 or visiting the Ventra Customer Service Center, 165 N. Jefferson St.)

“I’m going to go ahead and be done with all that."

The problem is: That won't work, Lukidis said.

Chicago Cards are valid through Nov. 15, and folks can still use magnetic stripe cards until Dec. 15. After that, only Ventra will be accepted.

“Oh. You’re telling me something new because I didn’t know that," said passenger Akia Taylor after a DNAinfo reporter explained the timeline. "I guess I'll have to get one [a Ventra card] then."

Lukidis said the CTA has used "a pretty extensive outreach campaign with multiple tactics" to explain Ventra to its passengers.

Commercials are running on local networks, promotional buses toured the city, and booths popped up at summer festivals. And many CTA buses and trains are running Ventra ads, Lukidis said.

For those who made the switch, reactions were mixed.

Sheldon Jones loved Ventra's ability to double as a debit card, but Omar Abrca called Ventra "a hassle."

"I don’t want to have to carry a card around," said Abrca, who has a car and doesn't use the CTA daily. "I liked the flexibility of buying temporary [magnetic stripe] cards every time."