Ventra stopped in its tracks amid CTA rider complaints

November 5, 2013 (CHICAGO)

CTA President Forrest Claypool halted the transition to the new payment card until Ventra can make improvements to glitches and customer service. The CTA is also halting payment to Cubic Transportation, which created Ventra.

Change always brings some resistance and hiccups with the new system, but Ventra has been a mess for many commuters. Ventra promised 'convenience,' but CTA riders found machines that are harder to navigate, turnstiles that won't let you through when you've paid, and long waits for calls to customer service.

As Claypool halted Ventra, Richard Wunderle of Cubic Transportation apologized to the City Club and promised the fare payment system will improve.

"With all the engineers we have at Cubic, but at the end of it this transition was not our shining light, and for that I want to apologize to the riders of CTA over the last couple months. It wasn't our best effort but it will get better," Wunderle said.

The CTA said Ventra must pass some benchmarks to go ahead with the transition: The wait time to reach an operator for a Ventra customer service call must be five minutes or less; Ventra machines must be up and running 99-percent of the time; and all card readers must process taps in two-and-a-half seconds or less, 99-percent of the time. .

"Cubic will not be paid until it achieves those benchmarks. Once Cubic reaches those goals then we will announce a new timetable to fully transition to the new system," Claypool said.

For now, the old magnetic stripe machines and Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus system, which were to have been phased out December 15, will continue until further notice.

At the Thompson Center, CTA riders formed a small line to get the magnetic striped cards.

"It's quicker that the other machine which gives you a lot of headaches," Norma Oquendo, CTA rider, said

Another issue commuters complained about: Ventra doesn't let you read your balance.

"I would like to know what I have on my card - without going back to CTA and putting it in the machine and seeing what it is," Annie Taylor, CTA rider, said.

"The answer as far as getting your balance. It's very unlikely you're going to get it as you're going through the gate," Dave Lapczynski, Cubic Transportation, said.

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