CHICAGO

Ventra Deadline: It's Now A Lot Harder For CTA Riders To Avoid New Payment System

Oct 04, 2013 | Updated Oct 07, 2013

Updated story

Still holding out on signing up for Ventra, the CTA and Pace's new payment system, amid reports of its clunky rollout? Registered but still waiting for your card (perhaps because this guy has all of them)? Well, your commute is about to get more complicated.

Monday, Oct. 7 marks the day new magnetic strip cards will cease to be available at any CTA stations and Chicago Card users will no longer be able to add money to their cards. If you are a Chicago Card Plus user nothing changes and if you already have a magnetic strip card, you may still use it -- for now.

Monday also marks the next major deadline in the continued Ventra rollout, as the CTA has gradually pushed more of its riders toward using the new system by replacing the old magnetic strip card vending machines with Ventra machines, a process that will continue next week -- until all the old machines are gone by Nov. 15, which is also when Chicago Cards and Chicago Card Plus cards will no longer be accepted.

(Scroll down for more important Ventra deadlines.)

The change comes at a time when Ventra users account for one in three CTA rides, officials told the Chicago Tribune Thursday.

Meanwhile, many CTA riders are still struggling with the new cards, saying both activating Ventra cards and adding funds to them have been difficult, Fox Chicago notes. Many have also said Ventra's customer service line is rampant with dropped calls and long waits.

On Twitter, CTA customers are particularly frustrated over their absent cards. As customers vent frustrations over not having received the card Ventra promises is in the mail, at least one resident had the opposite problem: A West Side man told RedEye he received more than 100 Ventra cards in his mailbox.

Commuters can buy a Ventra Card online, over the phone, at CTA rail stations and at participating Ventra retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, Jewel and Dominick's.

How has your Ventra experience been so far? Let us know below.

Nov. 15:

  • Cutoff date for Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus; balances for both can be rolled over to Ventra card until March 2014
  • All vending machines compatible with magnetic strip cards system removed from rail stations

Dec. 15:

  • CTA will stop accepting all forms of payment tied to previous system (Chicago Cards, magnetic fare card)
  • Pace starts issuing new Ventra transfer passes to riders
  • $5 new Ventra card purchase fee kicks in (until then, users can have the fee put toward fare total if they register the new card)
    • Balance on cards from old payment systems goes inactive but users will be able to mail in their old cards between January and March of 2014 to have balances transferred

Passes for one, three, seven or 30 days are not transferrable, so it's use it or lose it before CTA cuts off that option for good.

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