Transit agency's customers overcharged

CHICAGO And tens of thousands may have been affected in other ways.

Some CTA riders paid more to ride the buses and trains last week but it wasn't because of a fare increase.

A type of fare card vending machine mistakenly charged customers a total of $9,000 extra.

Like everywhere, it seems, the CTA is making its move away from currency and coins into the brave new world of credit and debit cards. But during the spring and early summer of this year, there was a speed bump. A technology glitch caused a few people to spend too much for their ticket to ride.

"If I can do it, anyone can do it," said Aruna Vallabhaleni.

Vallabhaleni said she loves the CTA's new express fare card vending machines for buying her monthly Chicago pass. It's right there in the L station, and she can use her credit or debit card for the transaction.

"I don't have to have cash with me because I travel alone. I can use my card and get it," said Vallabhaleni.

But it's not been a very good experience for an estimated 400 customers whose credit cards the CTA acknowledges were overcharged. And while the correct charges were authorized for about 35,000 other users, a different glitch caused their accounts not to be debited for the transactions until several months later all at once.

"It scares me a little bit that with the technology that they have, something like that would happen. I don't think I would put my credit card in there," said George Gebhardt, CTA rider.

The CTA referred all questions about the problems to Metavante, a Milwaukee-based technology firm that processes payments made through the fare card machines. A spokeswoman told said that "some customers experienced duplicate charges. As soon as we saw that, we reversed it."

As for the delayed debits that caused some ticket-buyers to overdraw their bank accounts, Metavante promises to refund any documented overdraft charges. Meanwhile, rider Louisanne Dessalines said she'll never again use a credit card to buy anything at CTA because she's had her own problem there with a credit card transaction.

"They told me they will take $20 from my credit card every month. When I call my credit card company, they're taking money from my credit card every three days. I have to tell them to stop it," said Dessalines.

How the CTA collects fares is more important because of its dramatically increased ridership during these days of skyrocketing gasoline prices. If you believe you were overcharged or had an overdraft caused by a delayed charge on your account, you should call the Metavante company in Milwaukee.

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