For many riders whom your Getting Around reporter has heard from, the Ventra system seems complicated and confusing. The odd Ventra brand name itself, dreamed up for Chicago based on the Latin term for “wind,” doesn’t yet roll off a Chi-Town tongue with the hometown familiarity of the long-popular Chicago Card.
But CTA officials report increased cases of the aging Chicago Card technology failing. The Chicago Card chip manufacturer will stop production next year, the CTA said. Meanwhile, radio-frequency identification cards are taking hold of the credit/debit card marketplace and being integrated into transit fare-collection systems worldwide.
The switch to Ventra marks the first time that third-party businesses will control the sale and management of Chicago-area transit fare card systems, relieving the CTA and Pace of those banking functions and allowing transit officials to sharpen their focus on delivering safe, on-time, high-quality service.
Wow! That sounds AMAZING! But how will it make money?
In addition, under the Cubic contract, the CTA is guaranteed a minimum half-million dollars a year in nonfarebox revenue. Some of it will be paid by Ventra debit account customers who are assessed fees. For instance, the CTA will receive a portion of the $2 monthly inactivity fee that Ventra MasterCard customers will be charged if they don’t use their retail card at least once over an 18-month period. The prepaid debit account program will be administered by First Data Corp.