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CTA: Ventra performance is improving

A CTA rider uses their U-Pass Ventrcard while entering CaliforniBlue Line statiFriday December 13 2013.  | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times

A CTA rider uses their U-Pass Ventra card while entering the California Blue Line station on Friday, December 13, 2013. | Michael Jarecki/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 15, 2014 6:12AM

The CTA on Friday said Ventra performance — including wait times at call centers, and the time it takes for customers to tap a card — is improving.

The transit agency released performance metrics Friday, showing the average tap time between Dec. 1 and Dec. 10 was 1.04 seconds on buses and 0.58 seconds for trains.

Nearly all Ventra taps on the CTA’s train system are being processed in 2.5 seconds or less since Nov. 11, according to the report assessing Ventra vendor Cubic Transportation Systems’ performance.

That’s a contrast from late October, prior to software upgrades, when more than five percent of taps took longer than 2.5 seconds.

And one of Ventra’s largest flaws — customers being charged additionally for tapping more than once — is also improving with the addition of a new technology that reads “processing” when a Ventra card is tapped, according to CTA spokesman Brian Steele.

“By reducing the tap times and by adding that screen to the process that says ‘processing,’ those two steps have really brought the number of cases in which customers are tapping twice, and therefore being charged twice, down,” Steele said.

Those screens have been installed on all CTA buses and train stations, and also at seven CTA bus garages.

The report shows 98.4 percent of vending machines are working properly, just shy of a performance target that 99 percent of machines and fare readers work.

“Vending machines are falling a bit short,” Steele said in an email, contributing some of that shortfall to the downtime it takes for machines to be unloaded of currency. He also said at some higher-traffic stations, the rollers that intake money wear out more quickly because of use. Steele said service technicians have been added — paid for by Cubic – and there are now “zoned service areas” to make sure technicians respond as quickly as possible.

Call volumes to the Ventra customer call centers have dropped to about 8,000 daily calls through Dec. 10. Wait times in December averaged just one minute and 17 seconds. That’s an improvement from months past. There were more than 12,000 calls on several days in October.

In a speech to the City Club of Chicago on Nov. 5, Claypool announced that too many customers were “confused and frustrated” by Ventra so he was suspending Ventra transition deadlines until the Ventra vendor met three “performance benchmarks.” One of those included having a 0.5 second tapping performance.

The CTA has still not announced a timeline of when Ventra will be 100 percent in place.

Despite all its problems, 66 percent of CTA customers are now using Ventra and more than a million customers have registered their cards, Steele said Friday.

From Sept. 14, to Dec. 7, the number of customers using Ventra, instead of “legacy” cards, like disposable cards, Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus, has declined, data shows.

On Dec. 7, the most recent day data was available, the CTA says 69 percent of customers — nearly six million customers used a Ventra card, over 31 percent using old cards.

Not all customers are noticing a quicker “tap” time.” Whitney Barber takes the CTA daily to get to River North from Rogers Park. He says he notices better tap times at different stations. “It’s not some stations it’s better but at Howard [Red Line station], when I tap, I have to tap a few times in the morning,” he said.

Still, Barber, 38, says he’s never had to call the customer service center and hasn’t noticed any overcharging with his Ventra account: “I’ll take that as a win.”


Twitter: @tinasfon

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