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.