By Courtney Clark
Ventra is a fairly new payment system for the Chicago Transit Authority that also has an optional prepaid debit account so users can pay bills online or get cash from ATMs for a small fee. It can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
While this seems undeniably more convenient, many people were turned off by the initial $5 fee to purchase a Ventra card. However, these dollars are immediately refunded as transit credit on the card when it is registered online.
The registration process is pretty straightforward but definitely adds an extra step from the Chicago Card Plus passes Chicagoans were used to.
But like the previous passes, value can be added to the cards at machines at CTA stations, and unlike the previous passes, value can also be added online or over the phone. It just makes adding value to your transit card more like transferring money in online banking.
A big advantage to Ventra is that if you lose your card, you can go online and replace it, therefore saving your balance, although there is still the refunded $5 fee for a new card.
Roosevelt student Nick Davison said he generally likes the Ventra system but still has some issues with it.
“The replacement fee is bulls—,” he said. “If my Ventra card gets stolen, I then have to pay a large fee on top of it. Not cool.”
As for multi-day passes, they still exist with Ventra and can be added onto cards just like any monetary value. This year, Chicago schools distributed Ventra U-Passes to full-time students that contain unlimited CTA rides for the remainder of the semester.
Some students enjoy using Ventra while, for others, it is causing major problems.
Omar Chavez, a political science student at DePaul University is a fan of Ventra.
“It’s efficient,” Chavez said. “I think it moves everyone along a lot quicker. I’ve never had any issue with it.”
Shannon Marks, a psychology and criminal justice major at Loyola University, disagrees.
“The U-Passes last year worked much better,” Marks said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed the train because my Ventra card wouldn’t scan.”
There seems to be a wide variety of opinions surrounding the Ventra system, especially during its arrival. Last year, there was a display of 300 magnetic striped cards at the Logan Square Blue Line stop that spelled out “Ventra sucks,” followed by a large protest at the CTA budget hearing in Nov. 2013.
People spoke out against Ventra’s systematic issues and it’s phase-out of more than 100 union jobs.
Petros Karahalios, a Northwestern University student, had better luck with his card. “Ventra didn’t charge me for five rides straight in the same day, so basically, I got five free rides,” Karahalios said. “Maybe I’m just lucky.”
Ventra has now taken over the CTA and made Chicago Cards a thing of the past. “[Ventra] has a novelty factor,” Karahalios said. “I like the tap-and-go. It’s the future.”