CHICAGO (CBS) — It could be a confusing commute for some mass transit riders today, as the CTA and Pace launch their new Ventra fare system.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports Ventra cards will begin replacing the familiar plastic and paper fare cards with magnetic stripes, which CTA and Pace customers have been using for years.
The CTA and Pace are phasing out those magnetic stripe cards. From now on, passengers can only reload those cards with cash, as the credit card express machines have been removed from CTA stations.
After Oct. 7, those magnetic stripe cards will no longer be sold, and the old fare card vending machines will be removed from bus and train stations by Nov. 15, when only Ventra card machines will be available. Riders must spend the remaining balance on their old fare cards by Dec. 15.
Those cards are being replaced by Ventra’s contactless fare cards, which riders will simply have to tap against the new fare card readers on CTA buses and train station turnstiles. A “go” light on the card readers will indicate the fare has been paid, or a “stop” light will flash if there has been a problem. CTA bus drivers and train station attendants can help with any Ventra card problems.
With Ventra cards, riders who pay cash to load their card must pay $3, instead of $2.25 for a single-ride ticket. A Ventra card costs $5, but if the owner registers the card online, that $5 is credited to their account to pay for fares in the future.
Students at Chicago Public Schools and most local universities have already been issued Ventra cards to replace their old reduced fare cards, and riders who use the CTA’s Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus have begun receiving Ventra cards to replace them.
Starting Nov. 15, the CTA will stop using the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus, though any remaining balance on those cards can be transferred to a Ventra card through March.
If you don’t want to use a Ventra card at all, you can use a contactless credit or debit card to set up a Ventra account, and pay your fares that way. Contactless credit and debit cards have a wave symbol, similar to a wi-fi symbol.
You won’t have to buy a Ventra card at a CTA station. Hundreds of retail locations will sell them; including CVS, Jewel-Osco, and Walgreens. You can also buy them online at ventrachicago.com or by phone, at 877-669-8368