For Some College Students, Ventra Rollout Begins Today

Ventra press event
Reese stands in front of a Ventra vending machine at Clinton/Lake.

The Chicago Transit Authority’s revenue director, Eric Reese, hosted a gaggle of reporters on Friday to show off the Ventra “outreach bus” and demonstrate, for the first time, a Ventra vending machine. Ventra is set to replace the current fare media for CTA and the Pace suburban bus system, including all passes, Chicago Card/Plus, and reduced fare cards. The new technology will enable faster boarding — speeding up buses especially — and lower the CTA’s costs.

Ventra machines won’t be accessible to the general public until September 9, but U-Pass holders can use the turnstile Ventra card readers starting today, and students at at least one local college can take advantage. Westwood College starts classes on Wednesday, so they will have active Ventra cards earlier than students at colleges with a later start to the school year.

Ventra press event
The Ventra card reader works just like Chicago Card/Plus readers, but the device gives much better visual feedback, clearly telling riders whether the card was accepted. ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/sets/72157634946319170/with/9447047724/##More images##.

Ventra vending machines will eventually replace all transit card vending machines and express vending machines. They operate much like ATMs, with instructions in English, Spanish, and Polish. At the press event Friday, I asked why touch screens weren’t used and an employee of Cubic, the contractor that developed Ventra, explained that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires physical buttons and Braille. (Touch screen transit vending machines are ubiquitous in Europe and riders who can’t operate them see a ticket agent.)

Ventra press event
One of the two Ventra outreach buses outside CTA headquarters.

DNAInfo implied today that Ventra and Divvy will be “connected,” but the fact is there are no plans to link Divvy membership to Ventra, only that cardholders can use the “retail purse” on their account to pay for anything that accepts MasterCard, “including Divvy,” Reese said.

The Ventra outreach buses are converted CTA buses that will be stationed around town to get the word out about the new fare card. The schedule is now online; outreach buses will be visiting Garfield Park and Bridgeport tomorrow.

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The forthcoming smartphone ticket app for Metra will also make it possible for Chicago Transit Authority and Pace customers to manage their Ventra transit accounts on their phones, the CTA announced last week. Even though the three agencies will spend $2.5 million on the app (plus nearly $16,000 in monthly fees), the Ventra app won’t at […]