CHICAGO (CBS) — Time is running out to activate new Ventra cards before old CTA and Pace fare cards expire, and finally, those who have resisted the changeover for months on end are surrendering.
More than 200 people lined up at the Jefferson Park branch library to make the switch Thursday. A few elderly customers said they merely waited until CTA came to them, because the trip to CTA headquarters in the West Loop was too much.
Most had horror stories to tell, either about themselves or their friends. One woman, named Barbara, said she traveled from Oak Lawn to Jefferson Park on her day off, because she had almost no balance left on her old Chicago Card Plus, which will no longer recharge automatically. She said she waited so long to switch to Ventra for a simple reason: CTA never sent her a Ventra replacement card last fall.
“I heard of all the problems, and I was actually relieved that I didn’t take care of it back then, because I would have been a lot more frustrated,” she said.
She produced a Ventra card that she bought minutes before arriving at the library branch.
Barbara said she believes Ventra’s teething problems are now in the past, but you will never convince Ben Bujakowski, who made it clear he is switching now only because his old fare card is running on empty. He said he’s heard horror stories from almost all of his friends, including one man who had a Ventra card that made an unauthorized $100 withdrawal, which simply disappeared.
Bujakowski said the Ventra program is “a joke.”
“If you have micro-intellects setting this up, what you get is garbage in and garbage out. I don’t think this Ventra system is going to be any different,” he said.
Bujakowski, the same as many other riders, continued to wonder why CTA and Pace dumped what appeared to be perfectly workable fare cards for something untested.
CTA personnel have said that they could no longer obtain the old Chicago Cards because the computer chip incorporated into the card is no longer made. It is the same chip that was used in the timeworn Game Boy computer system.
Riders have not been able to recharge Chicago Cards or the Chicago Card Plus since May 1. They will cease to work June 1. The magnetic stripe cards won’t be rechargeable after June 1, and the CTA will stop accepting them July 1.
The CTA will activate Ventra cards and transfer balances from old cards at its West Loop headquarters every Tuesday afternoon through the end of next month.