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Ventra bus loading times better but not perfect

January 13, 2014|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

Perhaps it's time to set up a red carpet outside CTA buses.

Sometimes it seems like the amount of time it takes to tap your Ventra card to board a bus is equal to the time it takes to flash your ID to get into a club.

The CTA, though, says split-second boarding is the norm. Recent data shows that about 60 percent of the time, Ventra taps on buses were processed in 0.5 seconds or less, but about 35 percent of the time, bus taps were accepted in 1.1 to 2.5 seconds.

Less often, bus taps were processed in 0.6 to 1 second (about 3.5 percent of the time); and 0.05 percent of the time, they were logged in more than 2.5 seconds, according to a Ventra performance report released Friday.

The goal is to have Ventra taps processed in 2.5 seconds or less, which happened 99.95 percent of the time. Rail fared better. About 66 percent of the time, rail taps were accepted in 0.5 seconds or less, according to the report. The report does not break down variance by line.

The CTA has tried to ease boarding problems this year by placing decals on rail and bus readers to show riders exactly where to tap their passes. The agency moved Ventra readers on buses to face riders as they board. Ventra is used to pay for about 73 percent of CTA rides.

Data aside, Going Public has noticed that it seems to take awhile for the green "go" to flash on bus readers, and sometimes the first time a rider taps a Ventra card, the card doesn't register. Drivers will make riders wait by the reader until the tap is processed.

The waiting clogs the boarding process, leading to long lines outside the bus, which wouldn't be so bad if Chicago wasn't cold and snowy many days.

The main bus boarding problem used to be when riders paid cash as they got on because they fumbled to push dollars into the farebox, delaying boarding.

Now using Ventra on the bus sparks similar annoyance. And riders are still allowed to pay cash on buses.

Hopefully the boarding speed will improve in the next month. The CTA said Friday that Ventra vendor Cubic Transportation Systems has met its three performance standards--lowering average customer service call wait times; processing Ventra taps in 2.5 seconds or less nearly all of the time; and 99 percent of Ventra equipment is functioning.

If Cubic continues to meet these standards through January, the CTA said it will announce a full Ventra transition timetable. The agency was supposed to fully transition last month but relaxed that deadline so Cubic could work out glitches.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: King Drive Green Line

The name of this Greater Grand Crossing station should be changed to "Please Drive." Riders can only access the station at certain entrances, and crossing the street to get to those entrances can be difficult because crosswalks are poor. Trains leave this station every 20 minutes during morning and evening rush hours, and less frequently during other times of the day. When GP visited this station last week, a train tracker display (so necessary because trains run infrequently) was broken. There was a bag of garbage on the platform. On Sunday, the elevator to the Cottage Grove-bound platform temporarily went out of service, the CTA reported.

Next up: 43rd Green Line station

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