September 27, 2012

Chicago Transit, Pace unveil open fare payment

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Pace Bus unveiled Ventra, a new fare payment system that will provide CTA and Pace customers with a new and more convenient way to pay for train and bus rides.

Ventra will be available in summer 2013, and will allow customers to pay for rides with the same payment method they use for everyday purchases. Customers can choose from the following contactless payment methods: Ventra Cards, Ventra Tickets for single-ride and one-day passes, and personal bank-issued debit and credit cards equipped with a contactless chip. Customers will simply “tap” their contactless payment card to quickly board trains and buses.

With Ventra, riders will no longer need to carry multiple cards and will not have to worry about having cash on hand or exact change. Additionally, the “tap” transaction will be faster than inserting cash or magnetic-stripe cards into fare equipment, which will speed boarding and improve service.

“Chicago will become the first major U.S. city to adopt an open fare system for transit,” said Forrest Claypool, CTA president.

CTA and Pace will also continue offering special fares and various priced fare products, like 30-day and seven-day passes, and will still accept cash on buses. Customers will also eventually be able to use compatible mobile phones to pay for train and bus rides.

The transit agencies retain full control of their fare structures while enabling customers to easily transfer between both services using the same form of payment.

The Ventra Card is a new dual-purpose card that includes a transit account and an optional Money Network prepaid debit account. In addition to using the card to pay for train and bus rides, CTA and Pace customers can activate the prepaid debit account for everyday purchases like shopping online or buying groceries, and for paying bills and getting cash at ATMs.

Ventra Cards and fare products will be sold at vending machines in rail stations and will be made available at up to 2,500 retail locations throughout Chicago and the suburbs. Many of the locations will be within blocks of CTA rail stations and CTA and Pace bus stops.

Customers are encouraged to visit ventrachicago.com for information and to sign up to receive updates as CTA and Pace implement the new fare payment system.

CTA has been working with Cubic Transportation Systems to design the new system since announcing the partnership in November 2011, when CTA awarded the $454 million contract. Pace joined the contract in July 2012.

Cubic will provide all of the fare collection equipment, maintenance and support. Once the system is live, CTA and Pace will pay Cubic a monthly fee plus a fee per “tap,” or paid fare.

The new system is expected to result in a savings of more than $50 million to the CTA over the life of the 12-year contract and resolves the need for CTA and Pace to upgrade and maintain existing fare collection equipment that is nearing the end of its useful life.

Cubic will begin installing the new Ventra fare machines at rail stations this October, along with new touch-pads on buses and at turnstiles. The fare machines and touch-pads will not be operational until the system’s pilot testing in spring 2013.

Ventra will be available to all customers in summer 2013. At this time, both new and existing fare media will be accepted. In 2014, all CTA and Pace fare media, including the Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus, will be replaced with Ventra.

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