Illinois officials question new CTA payment system at a public hearing

April 2, 2013

(Flickr/Zolk)

The new CTA debit card system is causing a lot of concerns among riders.

Members of the Illinois House Mass Transit Committee called a public hearing Monday to hear public concerns about additional fees associated with the card, which will be introduced this summer.

Those fees include small charges for contacting customer service and statement requests.

The new system is part of a CTA plan to update its current fare cards payment method and move towards a more advanced and unified transportation system. 

PACE has already joined the initiative but METRA officials said they are still evaluating some details.

Committee chairman, State Rep. Deborah Mell said the debit card aspect of the new system is creating additional confusion. She said CTA officials tout the debit card component is an incentive for people to get the new Ventra card but “there is no other option.” 

In regards to the additional debit charges, CTA president Forrest Claypool said the basic use of the debit card won’t have additional costs.

“All the main functions that many individuals use the card for, the typical options, the ones that are more common are free: direct deposit, making purchases, getting cash back on purchases,” Claypool said.

Some local agencies are also concerned about the 75 cent increase of single ride train tickets for people who don’t use the debit card.

Liz Czarnecki is with Chicago Jobs Council, an organization that advocates on behalf of low income individuals seeking job opportunities.

She says this is a problem for organizations who buy single ride train tickets in bulk to give to their clients when they have job interviews.

“It’s going to be very logistically challenging for them to provide a Ventra card for all of its participants,” she said. “They have many job seekers to whom they are working, so the actual disposable ticket it’s more logistically feasible and that is going to have increased fees.”

CTA is trying to address customer concerns before the card becomes available for use.

PACE and METRA officials were also invited to give updates on a new unified transportation payment system expected to take effect by 2015.