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What do CTA chief and Justin Bieber have in common?

  • Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber
April 15, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

What do CTA President Forrest Claypool and teen pop sensation Justin Bieber have in common? They're both track stars who are offering prepaid debit cards.

Bieber last week began a video campaign for SpendSmart prepaid debit cards marketed to teenagers. Claypool has been promoting the upcoming Ventra fare payment system. One of the options is a prepaid debit card.

Both prepaid cards have been criticized for their fees, which include balance refund check for Ventra ($6) and replacement charge for SpendSmart ($7.95).

Which of these guys will do the best job of representing each card? Time for a face-off: Celebrity vs. El-ebrity!

>> Track record

BIEBER: Like the CTA, Bieber has had some slow tracks, but his faster numbers such as "As Long as You Love Me" have become international hits.

CLAYPOOL: When it comes to convincing Chicagoans to sign onto his plans, Claypool hasn't always fared well. He lost his most recent elections for Cook County Board President and Cook County Assessor.

WINNER: Bieber

>> Appeal

BIEBER: He has more Twitter followers (37.5 million) than anyone, according to follower count sites. His most ardent followers are called Beliebers.

CLAYPOOL: The CTA president isn't on Twitter, but he did work as the deputy commissioner of the Cook County Board of (Property Tax) Appeals. No word whether his fans have given themselves a label. Pool kids? Forrest Rangers? Eat, Clay, Love?

WINNER: Bieber

>> Lyrics

BIEBER: "Managing your money is important, and there's a great company that can help you do that called SpendSmart."

CLAYPOOL: "Everybody can make their choice as a consumer and what's in their best interests. This is one more option in the marketplace, like the debit card you already have in your wallet today."

WINNER: Claypool

OVERALL WINNER: Bieber. Claypool can't top Bieber's mass appeal, which is off the charts, but he is an experienced campaigner. More than a few CTA riders will probably sign up for the prepaid card, but will it be the overall favorite among the Ventra options, which include a card similar to the Chicago Card Plus? Never say never.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Washington Blue Line

Maybe the station should be called Wa-shhhhhh-ington. This Loop stop has a secret. Its platform has areas that are surrounded by railings and not open to the public. These are coverings for staircases down into an old transfer tunnel to the Red Line. The CTA had to secure the staircases since the agency in 2006 closed the Washington Red Line station (which is not expected to reopen), CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said. What's in the tunnel now? Nothing, Chase said.

Next up: Madison/Wabash in the Loop

tswartz@tribune.com

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