Chicago commuters could be tapping their new Ventra cards on the bus or train as soon as early September, according to Chicago Transit Authority officials. The program will be first rolled out to public school students and universities with the U-Pass program in August, and the slow roll out will continue over the next few months.
The Ventra pass is a single fare card system that is being billed as an easy tap and go option for riders across both CTA and Pace transportation systems. Ventra users will also have the option to make cash withdrawals from ATM’s around the area with their card.
Starting August 5th, the first U-Pass cards will begin arriving at select universities Rush Medical School, Westwood College of Technology and Northwestern University Law School. Transit officials say additional universities that are enrolled in the U-Pass program will get their cards later this month in time for the start of their fall semesters.
Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus customers that have completed the proper address validation will begin receiving their cards in the mail around August 19th. As for Chicago Public Schools students, they’ll get their cards during school orientation, so that they’ll have Ventra set up for the first day of school on August 26th.
“We wanted to gradually roll in waves of customers, because we’re still testing the system and we’re doing thousands of transactions weekly,” said Tammy Chase, CTA spokeswoman.
Chase said the staggered roll out will give transit agencies the chance to jump in if any “hiccups” occur, rather than being inundated by switching the system over all at once.
As for everyone else, like faithful users of the magnetic stripe cards or day passes, Ventra will be available for purchase on September 9th. New Chicago cards will no longer be issued by September, but balances can be spent or transferred to Ventra. Chase said by December, the CTA and Pace will only accept Ventra.
The Ventra card will initially cost $5, which transit officials say will be refunded to the card for transit use once the card is registered online or by phone.
Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ’s morning producer and Follow her @laurenchooljian.