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CTA Puts Hammer Down On Ventra Contractor

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CHICAGO (CBS) — CTA president Forrest Claypool on Tuesday said the contractor on the new Ventra fare-collection system will not be paid until the problems are resolved.

Existing transit cards will continue to be accepted until wait times on Ventra’s hot line are under five minutes, and until 99 percent of fare card machines and readers are working, and 99 percent of readers register riders’ fares within 2.5 seconds.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said he tried three times to get through to a Ventra call center operator — twice after 8 p.m. on a weeknight and once on Sunday.He said he was disconnected or hung up in frustration after waiting up to 45 minutes.

Claypool said he has ordered another call center be opened to handle complaints.

Executives with Cubic, the company that operates the Ventra system under a $454 milion contract, apologized for the problems and vowed to fix them.

“This transition period wasn’t our shining light, and for that I want to apologize,” said Cubic vice president Richard Wunderle.

Numerous commuters have reported a variety of complaints about the new system, including cards that don’t work on buses and trains, difficulties signing up for the new system and incorrect charges on their cards.

It’s been nearly eight weeks since the CTA rolled out the card, promoted as a convenience.

For some it’s been anything but that.

Complaints about Ventra has been as high as 20,000 in one day.

Because of the problems, the CTA is extending the deadline for the full transition to Ventra.

It was supposed to be Nov. 15, But until everything is working, riders can use Chicago Plus, the Chicago Card, and the magnetic striped cards.

Cubic operates fare systems in 40 countries and insists it has never had problems anywhere else.