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Transit riders face long waits on Ventra card helpline

Graham Troyer-Joy 27 Chicago tried out Ventrsystem Merchandise Mart transit stop Monday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Graham Troyer-Joy, 27, of Chicago, tried out the Ventra system at the Merchandise Mart transit stop Monday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: November 10, 2013 6:37AM

For thousands of public transit riders seeking help enrolling in the new Ventra transit card system, calls to a helpline turned into elevator music endurance contests this week.

Wait times for the Ventra helpline, (877) 669-8368, on Monday and Tuesday averaged about 30 minutes and peaked at nearly 60 to get a customer service attendant on the line in a transit fare card rollout that’s been frustrating for many. Ventra is the new “open-fare” payment system that allows customers to use the same contactless card to pay fares on both the CTA and Pace transit systems.

“The call wait times are unacceptable,” said CTA spokesman Tammy Chase. “And we want that remedied immediately.”

Of the 10,000 people who called by Monday afternoon, 7,500 pushed zero to speak to a live person.

“Some people just press zero, they just prefer to deal with a live person,” Chase said. “And in some instances, there’s a good reason to talk to a person, but if you can deal with an issue online or through the automated prompt service, sometimes it can be a time saver.” The prompt system can accomplish activation and registration goals in several minutes, she said.

The CTA asked Cubic Transportation, the company hired to manage the new fare system, to double their customer service reps handling calls, but Chase could not say when the extra help would be in place.

“The the system is working well,” said Chase. “We’ve had a couple of issues with the transition and we’re working through those quickly.”

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