Chicago RTA transitions paratransit to contactless fares

Posted on May 24, 2013

Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) began mailing notices to customers about the transition of RTA’s Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit programs to Ventra.

More than 550,000 customers currently enrolled in the agency’s programs will receive new permits this fall that will enable them to take advantage of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Pace’s new contactless fare payment system, using a single card to travel throughout the region.

"The RTA is excited to bring enhancements to the transit experience for seniors and people with disabilities through the new Ventra system,” said Joe Costello, RTA Executive Director. “The Ventra system will mark the first time Reduced Fare customers will be able to load reduced fare 30-day passes to their permits and manage their transit accounts online or over the phone.”

The mailer lets customers know that they will receive their new Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit permits this fall and urges permit holders to contact the RTA Customer Service Center if their address or contact information has changed recently to ensure they receive their permit and any future mailings.

This fall, the RTA will mail new contactless permits, at no charge, to customers who are enrolled in the RTA’s Reduced Fare, Ride Free and ADA Paratransit programs. Once activated, RTA customers will be able to add CTA and Pace transit value, or load a reduced fare 30-Day pass, to their permits at CTA rail stations, online, over the phone and at more than 2,500 retail locations across Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Unlike the current magnetic stripe permits, the transit value and passes loaded to the new permit will be protected if the permit is lost or stolen.

To pay reduced fares on CTA and Pace, customers will simply “tap” their permits to the new Ventra card readers at CTA Rail turnstiles or when boarding CTA and Pace buses. The “tap” transaction will be faster than inserting cash or magnetic-stripe cards into fare equipment, which will speed boarding and improve service. Customers will also be able to manage their transit accounts online and over the phone.

Customers will use their new permits on Metra just as they do today. Reduced Fare customers will present their permits to a Metra ticket agent or conductor when purchasing their ticket.  Ride Free customers will simply present their permit to the Metra conductor.

ADA paratransit riders will continue to pay for their rides using cash or Pace ADA One Ride tickets. ADA Paratransit customers will be able to use their permits to pay for their rides on ADA Paratransit vehicles at a later date.

The new permits will be provided to customers free of charge; however if an RTA Reduced Fare Customer goes 18 consecutive months without using their Ventra Transit Account, the CTA will charge  a $5.00 dormancy fee that will be deducted from their stored transit value each month. Just one transit ride will reset the dormancy timeframe. Riders will not be charged if there is no transit value in their account.

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