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Ventra cards to mean changes for CTA, Pace riders starting Monday

A Ventrmachine CTA statiEvanston. The CTA suspended switchover deadlines Tuesday after problems have plagued rollout new transit card system.

A Ventra machine at a CTA station in Evanston. The CTA suspended switchover deadlines Tuesday after problems have plagued the rollout of the new transit card system. | Sun-Times Media files

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Updated: November 6, 2013 6:12AM

Starting Monday, magnetic-striped fare cards once used to pay for three-quarters of all CTA rides will no longer be available for purchase at CTA rail stations as part of the ongoing transition to the new Ventra payment system.

Riders will be able to add value to existing magnetic-striped cards at stations until Nov. 15, although the machines needed to do so may be harder to find as their numbers slowly dwindle.

However, at least one old transit card vending machine will be available at every L station through Nov. 15, said CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis.

And some magnetic-striped cards may be available at retail outlets — if they have any left in stock, Lukidis said. However, old magnetic-striped cards will be totally unusable as of Dec. 15.

The changes are part of a new move to allow CTA and suburban Pace riders to pay their fares by merely tapping a plastic Ventra card — or credit or debit cards with radio-frequency chips — on fare readers.

The last batch of Ventra cards due to registered Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus card-holders were mailed out Monday, Lukidis said.

She urged anyone with a registered Chicago Card who has not yet received a Ventra card in the mail to reload their Chicago Card before Monday, when reloading of such cards will no longer be an option. Chicago Card Plus customers can continue to auto-load their accounts until they receive and activate their new Ventra cards.

Also on Monday, Pace will begin offering a premium 30-day pass for $140, and a reduced-fare version for $70. The pass was created in response to requests from customers on the I-55 Bus on Shoulder Express Routes No. 755 and No. 855. The premium base one-way fare on the routes is $4.

Pace is planning public hearings this month on a proposal to eliminate its 10-Ride-Plus tickets. Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said the average purchaser only used the ticket for eight or nine rides, so he or she was not getting “the full value” out of the ticket. Plus, sales of such tickets have been declining.

“We interpreted this information to mean that people do like buying their fares in advance, but buying 10 rides all at once is probably too many,’’ Wilmot said. “So with Ventra, people can still pay in advance for their fares, but they can prepay for the number of rides that’s best for them.”

Also as of Monday, the Regional Transportation Authority’s customer service center will be relocated to the lower level pedway of the Cook County Building, 69 W. Washington. Office hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The new center can be accessed from the CTA Blue Line Washington Street subway station by using the pedway. The CTA No. 20 Madison and No. 156 Fullerton buses also stop close to 69 W. Washington.

The new RTA customer service center will continue to assist seniors and people with disabilities in applying for, renewing and replacing reduced-fare and ride-free permits and processing ADA paratransit replacement permits.

Disabled, reduced-fare and ADA paratransit users should have received their new Ventra cards in the mail from the RTA by now. Senior reduced-fare permits should arrive by the end of October, and ride-free disabled and senior permits should arrive by end of November, RTA officials said.

The RTA advised reduced-fare and ride-free permit holders to spend down their balances as soon as possible. Otherwise, they can transfer old balances at CTA balance transfer events through Dec. 13, or use a later mail-in option.


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