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CTA nudges more customers over to Ventra card

Graham Troyer-Joy 27 Chicago tried out Ventrsystem Merchandise Mart transit stop Monday. He said he had 'devil time trying activate'

Graham Troyer-Joy, 27, of Chicago, tried out the Ventra system at the Merchandise Mart transit stop Monday. He said he had "devil of a time trying to activate" his card. The system issued him a user name, but rejected it because the hyphen was an "invalid character." He got a new user name and started over. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Ventra Card still in the mail? Pick one up at a CTA station to use in the meantime
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Updated: November 9, 2013 6:12AM

Pay-as-you-go CTA rider Anne Stewart didn’t expect to switch to the new Ventra card quite so soon.

The Chicago Transit Authority discontinued sales of magnetic-striped cards at L stations Monday, but users technically have until Nov. 15 to keep reloading them with cash.

That is, as long as they can find a working machine, which Stewart couldn’t find at the Fullerton station.

“Both of the machines conveniently are down,” Stewart said.

So, she wound up purchasing a Ventra card on the way into the station Monday. Though frustrated, Stewart conceded it wasn’t difficult.

Yellow-vested CTA workers stood nearby to help guide customers through the process as the CTA gave its customers its latest nudge toward the new card.

“I had no trouble,” said Dean Hadjian of Lincoln Park after purchasing his Ventra card.

Registered Chicago Card holders who haven’t received their Ventra cards in the mail faced a double-whammy Monday: They couldn’t reload their old cards. Chicago Card Plus holders can still automatically reload until Nov. 15.

The last batch of Ventra cards were mailed to registered Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus holders last Monday, CTA officials have said.

Software engineer Graham Troyer-Joy said he ran into trouble with the Ventra card he got in the mail because the username created for him included his hyphenated last name. Turns out the hyphen is an illegal character in the Ventra system — and the result was an error message on his computer.

He even tried to hack into the system to get around it, he said, but it didn’t work. He spent 30 minutes trying to get a customer service representative on the phone.

“It wound up being a recording,” Troyer-Joy said.

He ended up purchasing a new Ventra card Monday at the Merchandise Mart so he can start over again. But he’s not yet abandoning his Chicago Card Plus.

“I probably won’t until I’m forced off of it,” Troyer-Joy said.

Don Davis, editor in chief of Internet Retailer, also said he’s had a “terrible” time this summer trying to transition over to the Ventra card. But he said he succeeded in loading money onto the card Monday with the help of the CTA workers at Fullerton.

“Hopefully, it’ll get me through the next couple weeks while they figure this damn thing out,” Davis said.

Contributing: Rosalind Rossi

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