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Negative balances a pain in the Ventra

  • A commuter uses the new Ventra fare-payment system at the Logan Square CTA Blue Line station in Chicago on Monday, Sept. 8, 2013. The CTA and Pace introduce their next-generation fare-payment system today, while beginning to phase out existing transit cards. (Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune) B583181608Z.1 ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS, NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, NEW YORK TIMES OUT, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION... ORG XMIT: CHI1309090934378995
A commuter uses the new Ventra fare-payment system at the Logan Square CTA… (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago…)
September 30, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

One negative about the new CTA fare payment system: negative balances on Ventra cards.

Some CTA riders have complained to Ventra they have garnered negative balances on their cards despite having money on the card or an unlimited pass. Reader Mallory Rush told Going Public she had an active seven-day unlimited pass but received a negative balance after a bus ride.

Another rider tweeted, "Wondering how I keep ending up negative on my Ventra card when I only use unlimited passes not cash."

I garnered a negative balance last month after paying for more transit rides than the card balance.

In that case, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said there's a brief delay after a Ventra card is tapped and a rider is given the go-ahead. During that time, the system reads the card and calculates the appropriate fare.

"If the card is in good standing, it gives the benefit of the doubt and allows the rider to go through even if the back end hasn't yet calculated the appropriate fare, which is how a negative balance would occur," Chase said in an email. "This is something that would happen infrequently."

Riders who have negative balances may notice a "suspended" tag on their account. Add more money or contact Ventra customer service if the negative balance should not have occurred because there was money in the account or you have an active unlimited pass.

One of the downsides of Ventra is the need for vigilance on balances. Riders can check their account at ventrachicago.com or at rail stations vending machines. Money and passes can also be auto-loaded.

While the current disposable, magnetic stripe cards tell riders when they're scanned how much money they have on the card or when their unlimited pass expires, Ventra card readers just tell riders to "stop" or "go," without giving them more information.

Tracy's Bus Ride

My pledge to ride every CTA bus line continues. I rode the No. 111A Pullman Shuttle this week and boiled my review down to a tweet.

@tracyswartz 12 minutes from new Pullman Wal-Mart to 115th and King Drive. Limited schedule but already popular. Bus isn't on Tracker so learn schedule.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Quincy stop in the Loop

At 116 years old, the Quincy stop is ready for a facelift—again. The station, known for its vintage signs, ads and other touches, will undergo renovation soon. The CTA board in August approved the $15.7 million plan, which would rely on tax-increment financing—money intended to promote redevelopment in certain areas in the city. The project is slated to involve adding two elevators, replacing two sets of entrance stairs and painting and lighting improvements. The stop was last renovated in 1988, the CTA said.

Next up: Kedzie Green Line

tswartz@tribune.com

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