Chicago Cards get the boot

An updated system will phase out all Chicago Cards and magnetic stripe cards by 2014.

Photo: Johnny Hung
The new Ventra system will be replacing the Chicago Card as a new way to pay for the CTA starting this summer.

Your CTA card will soon go the way of pay phones and print journalism.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is replacing all types of Chicago Cards and magnetic stripe cards with a new universal payment system known as Ventra by 2014.

According to the Ventra website, riders will have access to three different options for payment when the program goes live this summer. A MasterCard-stamped Ventra Card will hold both a transit account and a prepaid debit account, able to be used as payment anywhere MasterCard is accepted. Bank-issued debit and credit cards can be registered with the CTA and be used as Ventra Transit passes. Additionally, Ventra single-ride tickets and one day passes will also be sold. Pace and CTA buses will continue to take cash payments.

A pilot program of the system will launch in the spring. By 2014, Ventra will completely replace the Chicago Card system.

In 2011, the Illinois General Assembly mandated that the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) implement a universal payment system compatible with all services provided by CTA, Pace—a suburban transit system of the RTA—and Metra by January 1, 2015.

Although Pace opted into the CTA’s Ventra program in July 2012, Metra has declined to participate due to systematic differences, according to Metra spokesman Michael Gillis.

“[CTA and Pace’s] systems are closed, which means they have turnstiles or you have to go past a bus operator, whereas ours are open and we don’t have any turnstiles,” said Gillis. “Our fares, unlike theirs, are based on how far you travel, so you don’t pay a flat rate like you do on the CTA and Pace.”

According to CTA media representative Lambrini Lukidis, current Chicago Card Plus owners and people with registered Chicago Cards will receive Ventra cards without paying the five dollar fee other riders will have to pay for their first Ventra card, though she said they have not yet decided when this will happen.

Eligible riders will still have access to reduced and free ride permits, which will be administered by the Illinois Regional Transit Authority, according to RTA spokeswoman Diane Palmer.

  • Gail Selleg

    What about a March 12th Chicago Tribune article stating that a single fair will now cost $3.00 and that part of the increase will go to pay banks that charge fees for each transaction. I wish I would have known about the public hearing on Monday. I’ve already called my Alderman Solis, HR Acedvedo and IL Senator Munoz. This is terrible fair increase to the average Chicagoan, not to mention the poor who will find it hard to even pay to get to a job.

  • Alexis Justin Jones

    I beg to differ. I believe that the Ventra system will be easier, and you can add both transit value AND passes to the card. I also heard that the Regional Transportation Authority will be issuing new reduced-fare and free-ride Ventra passes to customers 65+ and the disabled, because I myself will be issued both permits.

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