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Starting Monday, CTA riders can’t buy magnetic-striped cards at L stations

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 8, 2013 6:26AM

Chicago Transit Authority riders who haven’t received their new Ventra cards in the mail by Monday won’t be able to buy magnetic-striped cards as backup.

The move to the new Ventra payment system kicks into high gear Monday as the CTA discontinues the sale of the magnetic-striped cards in L stations.

Registered Chicago Card holders who haven’t received their new Ventra cards face a double-whammy: They can’t reload their old cards. But Chicago Card Plus holders can still automatically reload their cards until Nov. 15.

In years past, only 5 percent of rides were purchased with Chicago Cards; 19 percent were bought with Chicago Card Plus cards, and a whopping 75 percent were purchased with magnetic-striped cards.

So riders used to paying as they go with a paper card may be forced to jump on the Ventra plastic fare card bandwagon Monday, unless they already have magnetic cards they can reload.

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

“If they haven’t received their cards, they have been mailed,’’ CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said Sunday. But she said an unspecified number of registered CTA cardholders provided incorrect or incomplete information and cards have not been mailed to them, Chase said. The CTA is emailing those customers with requests to update their information so their cards can be mailed immediately, she said.

In a pinch, Chase said, customers can buy a new Ventra card before their card arrives in the mail. New single-use tickets also are available, but at a higher price: $3 each.

Cash will be accepted on buses, even after Ventra’s full launch.

Chicago Card Plus holder Elaine Tate, 67, of Lincoln Park, was relieved she doesn’t have to use the CTA on Monday because she still had not received her new card as of Sunday. Tate said she has received two emails about a new Ventra card, although Chase said registered cardholders should receive three emails before their Ventra cards arrive.

When she called CTA customer service last Wednesday, Tate said, she was told the CTA was behind in mailing out Ventra cards, that she should get a new card in a week or two, and that hold times at the Ventra customer service center were running 30 minutes.

“Maybe this is one off thing, but my guess is it isn’t and there’s lots of people waiting for their new cards,” Tate said.

Chase said the Ventra service center has been adding customer service representatives and will continue to do so as the reach of Ventra expands. Magnetic-striped cards will be totally discontinued on Dec. 15.

New Ventra cards for 342,500 reduced-fare seniors should arrive by the end of October, RTA officials said. Old reduced-fare permits can be reloaded until Nov. 15, the CTA said.


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