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CTA, Pace bump up publicity as Ventra prepares to roll out

The Ventrinformational buses will be making appearances community events help people learn more about new transit payment system. Schedules are

The Ventra informational buses will be making appearances at community events to help people learn more about the new transit payment system. Schedules are available at www.ventrachicago.com. | Nausheen Husain~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 4, 2013 6:12AM



College students who use a U-Pass to get around the city will act as the CTA’s guinea pigs for the new Ventra card beginning next week.

The transit fare card, which can be used on both CTA and Pace vehicles, will be in its first phase of distribution starting Monday. Rush University Medical School, Northwestern’s law school and Westwood College will be Ventra’s first customers.

The new system will include new cards, new card vending machines and new readers with the capability to read a debit or credit card instead of a transit card. University students in Chicago who use a U-Pass to ride the CTA will each be distributed a U-Pass with Ventra capability.

The new cards are plastic and more durable, said Loyola University’s business manager of student development Irina Greenwald. They will also remove a major complaint from students.

“We always have students asking us, ‘Why do I have to pick up a new card eight times in my four years here?’ ” she said. “Now, they only have to pick up the card once, and it lasts a few years.”

After the city’s students, Chicago Card users will receive the next set of cards, starting Aug. 19. Everyone else, including reduced fare program members, will be able to get the new silver cards in September. Until then, CTA and Pace are ramping up efforts to educate riders about the new system.

As the new system rolls out, expect more TV and radio ads, explanatory videos on the CTA and Pace websites, RTA emails, Facebook posts and tweets. Two informational Ventra buses will also roll around the city and at community events — people can enter, watch a video that explains the Ventra system, pick up some pamphlets and ask questions. The schedule of Ventra’s educational events is available on www.ventrachicago.com.

“As we’ve kicked up the customer information campaign, the number of calls with questions of concern have gone down, and it’s more questions of curiosity,” said CTA Director of Revenue Eric Reese.

Ventra may be the first of a few changes to come in the next few years. CTA and Pace are looking into mobile options for travelers who want to pay their fare by phone, said Reese.

“We’re trying to make this more of a retail transaction and less of a transit transaction,” said Reese. “Now, you’ll be able to take a Pace bus to the city, take the CTA to O’Hare and fly to London, all with your credit card.”

“You could probably just keep using your credit card there,” he added. “They have contact-less transportation, too.”



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