The CTA gave itself a good grade on the first day of Ventra, its new fare payment system.
Students at two local colleges and CTA employees on Monday were officially the first to try Ventra, where users can tap their passes on card readers. Other riders are being phased in to the system, which will replace Chicago Cards and the paper magnetic stripe cards. Sept. 9 is the start date for all CTA riders.
The CTA said things went smoothly Monday for its employees and U-Pass student fare users at Westwood College in the Loop and Rush Medical College on the Near West Side. These schools got first crack at the system because of their class start dates.
"Anecdotally from the field, everything went fine," CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said. "No issues reported."
Natasha Russell, director of student support at Westwood, said she had Ventra cards ready for nearly 280 students who were recently enrolled in the college.
Some 100-plus students who are new to campus or had taken some time off signed up for the card and were given free seven-day unlimited cards while their Ventra cards were being processed.
Orientation Monday at Westwood included information about how to use Ventra, Russell said.
"I think the confusion about the program was minimal," Russell said. "I've had one student call and they used the card, and they got the green light to go."
Russell said her school has been preparing for more than six months for the transition to Ventra. The CTA said it continues to test the card for glitches.
The Illinois and Chicago Departments of Transportation are holding public meetings this week to discuss how to improve Lake Shore Drive from Grand to Hollywood avenues. The meetings, each from 6-8 p.m., will be held Tuesday at Gill Park, 825 W. Sheridan Road; Wednesday at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.; and Thursday at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Cicero Blue Line
The CTA announced in June that it is undergoing a $1 million study of how to improve the Forest Park branch of the Blue Line, including this stop in Austin. One of the priorities should undoubtedly be to fix the track of this section of the Blue Line, which was under 28 percent slow zone in July including just west of the Cicero stop. Aesthetics also should be considered. The Blue Line stations along the Eisenhower Expressway are dank concrete jungles. Not many have pedestrian-friendly layouts for easy transfer to and from buses. Landscaping alone would go a long way toward making these Blue Line stops seem less sad.
Next up: Foster Purple Line