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Test driving the new Ventra card

  • Ventra will launch in August, the CTA said.
Ventra will launch in August, the CTA said.
August 26, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

It wasn't exactly love at first swipe, but my new Ventra fare card worked well enough for its first week of use.

Last week, I tapped the card on buses and trains and at main and auxiliary station entrances. I kept it in my hand and left it in my clutch as I swiped it. I used a vending machine to load it and ventrachicago.com to register it.

Overall, the card worked without incident when the fare readers were functioning—but that wasn't always the case.

Of the more than a dozen buses I rode last week, three fare readers on three different routes didn't function at all. As I tried to pay my fare, the bus drivers waved me through without asking me to try to pay a different way. Sweet, free ride!

Separately, I had trouble using my Ventra card multiple times at the auxiliary entrances at the Paulina and Belmont Brown Line stations. I swiped my card, the machine said "go," and as I pushed through the turnstile, I got stuck.

I was unable to push the turnstile further. I had to retreat back through the turnstile and swipe again to go through. The CTA said it is looking into whether this was a problem with those specific entrances.

Here are some tips for getting and using your new Ventra card, which will be available to all CTA riders Sept. 9.

>> Grab and go: It only took a few minutes to sign up for an unlimited pass at a station vending machine. Later, at my desk, it only took a few more minutes to register the card. I have yet to try to register the card through my pre-tax commuter benefit program because it hasn't transitioned yet.

>> Tap it fast: An arrow on the fare reader tells you where to lightly tap the card. The card worked fine in my fabric clutch, but riders should test their cards to make sure they can used in their wallets.

>> Word of mouth: If you have a problem with a reader or a card, tell the CTA. "It's a big system. We know there's going to be glitches," CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Main Purple Line

The main problem with the Main station, like other Purple Line stations north of Howard Street, is that it desperate needs a renovation. The platforms are narrow, the paint is peeling and it's tough to navigate the stairs. Improving the Purple Line should be the CTA's next main focus.

Next up: Randolph/Wabash

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