CHICAGO — Starting May 1, CTA riders will no longer be able to buy magnetic-stripe fare cards or add value to Chicago Cards, CTA officials said Monday.
Next week's deadline is part of the agency's switch to the Ventra payment system — a switch that has been fraught with growing pains, although officials say the problems have been addressed.
Both CTA and Pace will make a complete transition to Ventra on July 1 — meaning the old swipe-card readers on buses and trains will be permanently removed.
Already, 84 percent of all CTA rides and 60 percent of Pace rides are taken with Ventra cards, according to CTA officials. CTA estimates there have been more than 153 million Ventra taps across CTA and Pace systems.
But the complete switchover has been a longtime coming. While the CTA began the formal transition to Ventra in September, it scuttled end-of-the-year deadlines in November as the payment system suffered a series of problems, including undelivered cards, poor performance at the turnstiles and on buses and long waits for customer service over the phone.
At one point in a systemwide breakdown, CTA bus drivers and station workers were allowing thousands to ride for free, and a CTA audit estimated that $1.2 million in fares had been lost by the end of last year. Those fares were billed to Ventra's corporate owner, Cubic Transportation Systems.
The problems made riders irate and, in one instance, prompted a rap dis.
To help customers transition to Ventra, the $5 card fee to purchase a Ventra card will be waived through July 7 at the more than 1,000 retailers throughout the Chicago region that sell the card, officials said.
The CTA also plans a series of "balance-transfer events" throughout the city over the next three months, where customers will be able to bring as many as five old cards with at least $5 combined on them to have them shifted over to Ventra cards.