Ventra’s website boasts “With Ventra, travel throughout the Chicago area is more convenient and efficient than ever before,” but do students agree?
Ventra is a fairly new payment system for the CTA that also has an optional Prepaid debit account so you can also pay bills online or get cash from an ATM 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 five-dollar fee when you first purchase a Ventra card. However, these five dollars are then immediately refunded as transit credit on your card when it is registered online.
The registration process is pretty straightforward but definitely adds an extra step from the Chicago cards Chicagoans were used to. However, like the last passes, value can be added to the cards right at a machine at the CTA stations and unlike the last 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 five-dollar fee for a new card. Roosevelt student, Nick Davison, generally likes the Ventra system but said, “The replacement fee is bullshit. 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 your card just like any monetary value. Chicago schools this year distributed Ventra U-Passes to students that contain unlimited CTA rides for the remainder of the semester.
Some students enjoy using the Ventra while for others it is causing major problems. Omar Chavez, a Political Science student at DePaul University is a fan of the Ventra because “It’s efficient. I think it moves everyone along a lot quicker. I’ve never had any issue with it.” On the other hand, Shannon Marks, a Psychology and Criminal Justice major at Loyola University said “The U-Passes last year worked much better. 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 first arrival. There was a display of three hundred 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 November 2013. People spoke out against Ventra’s systematic issues and it’s phase out of over a hundred union jobs.
Petros Karahalios, a Northwestern University student, admitted “Ventra didn’t charge me for five rides straight in the same day so basically I got five free rides. Maybe I’m just lucky.” Ventra has now taken over the CTA and made Chicago cards a thing of the past. Karahalios commented, “[Ventra] has a novelty factor. I like the tap and go. It’s the future.”
*Published in the Roosevelt University Torch, 2014.