Everything You Need To Know About the Weird New CTA Ventra System

For some riders, not much will change. Others—like, people using cash—will pay more for the same old CTA service.

photo: courtesy ventra chicago

The CTA announced plans for Ventra this past September, but the city’s new fare system—set to launch summer 2013—is still raising some questions. Like the one going around the Chicago office this morning: What’s the deal with this weird new Ventra thing?

Here is a breakdown of some of the changes CTA riders will face with Ventra’s launch.

What are the payment options for riders under the Ventra system?

  1. Ventra Cards: You can load any amount of money on a Ventra card with cash or with an online Ventra account. You can use the to pay per ride or load unlimited ride passes onto the card. 
  2. Ventra Tickets: These are disposable, paper cards used for single ride and day pass unlimited-ride tickets. 
  3. Personal bank issued credit cards: You can link your personal credit and debit cards to your Ventra account and add transit value, or purchase unlimited-ride passes, for use with that card. 

How much does it cost to purchase a Ventra Card?

Ventra Cards will have a one-time fee of $5 at purchase. Riders can be refunded their $5 (as transit value) if they register their Ventra Cards within 90 days of purchase. But cardholders will face a $5 monthly fee if they don’t use their card for 18 months.  Users will be notified about the upcoming 18-month mark if their card is registered. 

What if you lose your card?

If you lose a registered Ventra card, the balance is protected by the CTA. But it will cost riders $5 to purchase a replacement Ventra Card (and this will not be refunded).

What if you already have a Chicago Card or Chicago Card plus?

Those with registered Chicago Cards (and Plus cards) will be sent a Ventra card in the mail as part of an automatic transition and won’t need to pay the initial $5 fee. 

How does Ventra affect riders purchasing single ride passes?

Single ride, disposable Ventra tickets will cost more than under the old system. A paper single ride train ticket will cost $3 (including a $2.25 train fare, $0.25 for a transfer and a $0.50 limited use ticket fee) for fares. If riders purchase Ventra Cards, or use personal credit/debit cards, they won’t be charged these “convenience fees” and the cost for a single ride will remain $2.25. 

So riders will be penalized for paying with cash? 

Pretty much. Riders purchasing single ride, disposable train tickets will be penalized—fares will be $3.00 versus $2.25 (under circumstances listed above). But bus fares paid with cash remain the same price! If you are paying with cash even though you’re Ventra cardholder, for whatever reason, you will not be penalized. 

How does Ventra affect riders purchasing unlimited ride passes?

Under the new system, riders purchasing unlimited ride passes will see few changes. They will be able to pay for unlimited ride passes in 1-day, 3-day, 7-day and 30-day increments with Ventra Cards and personal credit/debit cards. The price for 1-day unlimited-ride paper tickets will remain $10 for all-day rides. 

Are riders required to turn their Ventra cards into prepaid debit cards?

No. So, basically, if you’re using the Ventra card, you can make it double as a prepaid debit card for use on non-transit daily purchases. You can bet there are additional fees to do that—read about them here.

When does Ventra go into effect?

The CTA is planning to fully transition to the Ventra system by the start of 2014.

Thanks to Lambrini Lukidis in media relations at the CTA for help reporting this story!



1 year ago
Posted by Chris1jt

Wow... Abigale, did you really do your homework before posting this? I'm not even a supporter of Ventra... Frankly I'm indifferent as long as they do something to get rid of those POS cash-only vending machines currently decaying in our stations.

My point is this: riders aren't being "peanalized for using cash," they're being peanalized for using wasteful paper one-time-use cards. According to the Ventra site, you'll be able to pay for these single use cards with either a debit/credit card OR cash. Since it costs the CTA a lot of money to produce these cards, they're esentially screwing the end-user by charging us the production cost. However, in no way is this system punishing people for using cash. Still not a great deal for tourists, but far from what you're reporting. A simple scan of the ventra site would've told you this.

And the debit card fee issue is an entierly other issue, but still, at least our system is being upgraded. There's just so much negativitey and misreporting going on about Ventra that I'm sick of reading it all. Please, do a more thorough job of researching the truths and misinformation before writing your next piece.

11 months ago
Posted by JohnChicagoMag

I think that Abigail Tracy's account matches what I've read about Ventra elsewhere. Whether you should call the extra 50 cents a penalty or not depends on the cost of producing (and disposing of) the card. If the card actually costs 50 cents, then perhaps penalty is the wrong word, but it does indicate that radio-activated cards are a poor choice of technology. Relative to what we get, Ventra seems a poor deal, even taking away the bad debit card deal. I've currently got a Chicago Card, and am expecting a Ventra replacement in the mail; I won't see a difference, I guess. I can already use the same card on Pace. I don't see what problem Ventra is fixing.

10 months ago
Posted by LeahDoe

What about the privacy issues? Is there any way to use the CTA at normal fares without signing over your privacy - or is the only option to be penalized at every ride with single fare tickets? The Ventra card form is pretty invasive for a company that's about to track everywhere you go.

10 months ago
Posted by lshu

need information concerning senior ventra half fare cards and how to purchase one.

2 months ago
Posted by ant123

Can you track the movement of a card if so how

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