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Ventra to replace Chicago Card by 2014

Ventra, a transit-debit card hybrid, will be introduced this summer on the CTA and Pace. This new system will replace the Chicago Card by 2014. Here's what you need to know:

In addition to using the card to pay for train and bus rides, customers can activate a prepaid debit account for making online or in-store purchases. It will even allow customers to take out money at an ATM. If this sounds great, you might be wondering what the uproar is all about. Like many debit and ATM cards, there are fees for loading your card, replacing your card, or taking out money. There's also a fee if your debit card remains inactive for over 18 months. If you fear fees, go the simple route and opt-out of the the prepaid debit feature.

Though Chicagoans seem opposed to the change, I can assure you it's not the first time we've been weary of a new system. When the Chicago Card was introduced in 2006, we were all in a tizzy. Now I know plenty of people -- including myself -- who consider the Chicago Card an extension of their body. "The CTA and the Regional Transportation Authority are leading an effort to create an open fare system in which bank-issued cards and universal transit cards will be accepted on CTA, Pace and Metra" notes this Chicago Tribune article. Imagine how simple life will be when we can use a single card on every form of Chicago transportation. This is one step in the right direction.

Both the Chicago Card and Ventra will have the same fare structure: $2.25 per rail ride, $2.00 per bus ride, 25 cents for the first transfer, and the second transfer free. You'll also be able to continue having your monthly pass authomatically loaded onto your card, but (bonus!) if you just want to load fixed-fare prices like the 30-day or 7-day pass, you can. No more running into Dominicks or Walgreens to grab those passes.

Plus, the Ventra system will also move Chicago one step closer to sustainability. Single-ride tickets will rise from $2.25 to $3 under the new system, but this should encourage people to use a reloadable card instead of printing out a new ticket each ride. Did you know the CTA prints around 35 million transit tickets each year! That's a whole lot of ticket waste.

If I have one piece of advice for my fellow urbanites, it's to get Ventra as soon as you can. Don't wait until 2014. Get the card when it becomes available this summer, spend some time reading the fine print, and give it a try. Chances are, a year from now we won't even remember making the switch.

Note: Chicago Card Plus users will see their balance transfer to Ventra, but take note Chicago Card users -- you'll have to use your balance as it won't transfer over.

 

For complete information about Ventra go to www.ventrachicago.com or www.transitchicago.com/ventra.


Big Ten voting starts today #LoopHoops

The Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament returns to the United Center March 14 - 17. With such a variety of alumni in the city, it's hard to tell which team has the most Chicago support. That's why, for one week only, we're giving Chicago the chance to voice their opinion!

Send your vote for the winning team to @chiloopalliance with the hashtag #LoopHoops. We'll count the votes every day and report back to you. In case you need a refresher, or haven't been down to State Street to see the banners yet, the teams competing are:

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Indiana University
University of Iowa
University of Michigan
Michigan State University
University of Minnesota
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Northwestern University
Ohio State University
Pennsylvania State University
Purdue University
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Also happening in the Loop, from Tuesday, March 12 until Friday, March 15, there will be a basketball court and tented festival area in downtown Daley Plaza. Food, beverages, entertainment will be available. Stop by the Big Ten Hoops Fest on your lunch break or after work, and you might just see a special apperance of your favorite Big Ten athlete!

Gear up for March Madness and don't forget to VOTE NOW for your favorite team!


Make your Chicago Restaurant Week reservations now

If you’re like me you get all hyped up for Restaurant Week each year, but the overwhelming decision of where to go, when to go, and who to go with leaves you in the dust like Wile E. Coyote. This year I’m actually going to participate in Restaurant Week and here’s why.

Restaurant Week is 10 days. Yes, you heard right, it’s 10 days of discounted prix fixe menus. This gives you plenty of time to move around a thing or two in your calendar and free up a night of delectable dining with your significant others, friends or family.

There’s finally a reason to try that restaurant you’ve been eyeing for years. For me, it’s Atwood Café at the Hotel Burnham on State Street. I’ve been walking by it and staring at people’s plates for four years.  

There are vegetarian and vegan options. If you ask politely when you call to make your reservation there’s a big chance they’ll accommodate you. This is Chicago after all – restaurants are aware some of us prefer no meat and some of us can’t have gluten. It’s the new normal. If you prefer not to ask, check out this restaurant list from the Choose Chicago Chicago Like a Local blog.

Spending a night in the city is like being a temporary tourist. Yes, I come downtown to go to work every day, but sometimes the rush to the gym or a dinner party prevents me from actually enjoying the city at night (which in my opinion is when the city looks the most beautiful). The Loop offers plenty of post-work places to dine including: The Gage, The Berghoff, Chuck’s Manufacturing, Filini, Hoyt’s, Lookwood at the Palmer House, State and Lake, Trattoria No. 10, The Walnut Room, and many more.

The food. This may seem obvious, but Chicago is one great culinary destination right under our nose. Expand your palate and try a new cuisine or a dish you can’t even pronounce. That’s part of the excitement that is Chicago Restaurant Week, running February 1st through 10th in most Chicago neighborhoods.

Don't go another year saying "I'll do it next year" -- the time is now! Make your reservations via OpenTable or phone today.


Honoring the veterans at Pritzker Military Library

The Pritzker Military Library is located at 104 S. Michigan Ave., inside The Monroe Building. Recently renovated, The Monroe Building now features wrought iron elevator grilles and rare decorative tile work. Remarkably, the restoration team included some of the companies involved with the building's original construction. It is the perfect historic location for a military library.

Visiting the library is to enjoy a nice, new space while touring exhibits and over 40,000 volumes of history. In honor of Veteran’s Day this coming Monday, November 12, the library will offer free admission and events for visitors:

  • 8 a.m. Morning Colors Ceremony
    Art Institute of Chicago North Garden
  • 8:30 a.m. Breakfast and Coffee
    Pritzker Military Library

Honor those who served you and your country this Monday at the Pritzker Military Library. Visit the Pritzker Military Library website for more information on their collections and Veteran’s Day events.


Kinky Boots receives a standing ovation

I had been dying to see a musical in Chicago this fall, so a few of the staff members here at Chicago Loop Alliance decided to see Kinky Boots. None of our group had been to the Bank of America Theatre, which made our experience all the more exciting (not to mention the chance of bumping into Cyndi Lauper)! Though we never caught of glimpse of Cyndi, we heard she attends most performances to look for any adjustments that would make the show better. Her method must be working, because Kinky Boots was absolutely mesmerizing.

We headed over to the theatre just a few minutes before the show. Fortunately, the will call line didn’t take too long and we we’re in our seats before we knew it. As the lights dimmed the room fell silent, and all attention turned toward the Price & Son storefront on stage. The real magic happened when the set opened up, and continued to transform into a factory, a club, and even a boxing ring.

The cast was equally entertaining, with a wide range of ages and roles. Stark Sands held his own, as innocent Charlie Price, against a backdrop of extravagant entertainers. There was no doubt though that the star of the show was Billy Porter playing Lola, the fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. From his body language to his 6-inch heels, everything about his character demanded attention – and it was received. Intermission was almost unwelcome considering much of the audience wanted to find out what would happen next.

In the end, Kinky Boots teaches a lesson about accepting someone for not only how they look, but who they are. In one grand closing song, the cast officially stole our hearts and warmed our “soles”. I’m pretty sure everyone left the theatre with a huge smile on their face. The show ends Sunday, so grab your last minute tickets now! You won’t be disappointed.

For more Chicago productions visit Broadway in Chicago or League of Chicago Theatres today.


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