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Ventra attracts little attention from CTA riders during first morning rush

A CTA customer buy Ventrcard last month under guidance CTA employee. | Stefano Esposito~Sun-Times

A CTA customer to buy a Ventra card last month under the guidance of CTA employee. | Stefano Esposito~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 11, 2013 6:08AM

Despite the hoopla over the systemwide rollout of the CTA’s new Ventra cards, some commuters streamed right by gleaming new Ventra machines in transit stations Monday.

Some expressed confusion at Chicago Transit Authority instructions about its new “contactless’’ fare payment card with a special radio frequency chip. Others said they were still waiting to get their Ventra cards in the mail.

But some who dared to purchase or use Ventra cards seemed to like them.

“It’s much more efficient and the cards are more durable,’’ said Jon Knott, 22, a downtown worker. “So I can ‘t complain. I won’t lose them nearly as much. It’s so much easier to pass through (the turnstile).”

Ventra cards went on sale at CTA stations and 700 retail outlets Monday, offering travelers a re-usable, “tap-and-go” form of paying for both CTA and suburban Pace fares. Old fare cards will be accepted through Dec. 15, but the ability to reload them or buy new ones will diminish well before that.

CTA officials seemed satisfied with Monday’s systemwide Ventra launch. Said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase: “We’ve been told there are no significant issues reported.’’

However, on social media sites and elsewhere, some Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus members complained they still had not received new Ventra cards in the mail, as promised.

Jim O’Donnell, 54, a Red and Brown Line user, said an Aug. 20 email from the CTA promised him a card in seven to 10 days, but nothing has showed up yet.

“Are they going to send it today or tomorrow or the next day or in the next two months?” asked O’Donnell. “It’s kind of a mess.’’

Chase urged customers to be patient, as the CTA is mailing out about 15,000 new Ventra cards a day. The Regional Transportation Authority just started mailing out senior and reduced-fare Ventra cards on Monday, officials there said.

Jane Flanagan, 54, of Beverly, said she wanted to give Ventra “a whirl right out of the gate” Monday. She described the Ventra dispensing machines as “a little confusing” but “If you have someone helping you instructionally, then great.’’

Some of those seeking help online also were left scratching their heads.

Charles Paidock said his group, Citizens Taking Action for Advancement of Public Transit, has been getting calls from riders trying to understand a grid on the CTA website explaining different deadlines for the different kinds of existing card holders.

“You need a scorecard to figure it out,’’ Paidock said. “You can’t do that to 500,000 people.’’

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