CHICAGO (CBS) — CTA is a lot happier now with the Ventra farecard than it was even a month ago. But CTA President Forrest Claypool said Wednesday that the final phase-out of old fare cards is at least two months off.
“We’ll probably be ready to announce a transition schedule at the end of the month,” he told WBBM following the CTA’s monthly transit board meeting Wednesday.
The phase-out won’t be quick.
“It is not going to be overnight. That’s for sure,” he said. “We’ll give people plenty of time.”
Just because CTA is happier with the card doesn’t mean the tweaking is over. Claypool said another upgrade to card-reading equipment is taking place this week.
Older farecards were supposed to be phased out Dec. 15, but Claypool Nov. 5 put that on indefinite hold because of a series of problems. Older magnetic-stripe farecards, Chicago Cards and Chicago Cards Plus continue to work, and can be replenished, although Claypool said Wednesday that nearly 80 percent of all CTA fares are being paid with Ventra cards.
Vendor Cubic Transportation Systems was required to hire more customer service personnel, answer service center calls more quickly and to assure that Ventra cards were read correctly within 2.5 seconds at least 99 percent of the time.
Cubic has met those benchmarks since Jan. 1.
The latest changes give riders more detailed messages about their cards when they tap Ventra readers. One warns of “insufficient fare” money on the card. When first issued, some users took dozens of rides on Ventra cards that had a negative balance without being stopped.
The old farecard system is being phased out in part because the computer chip used in Chicago Cards is no longer made, and in part to meet a 2015 legislative mandate for a universal fare card, good on CTA, Pace and Metra.
CTA and Pace are adopting Ventra together. Metra plans tests involving the new farecard later this year.